Tech Vendors Offer ‘Prime Day’ Tactics for Taking On Amazon

E-commerce retailers need to step up efforts on the customer service and personalization fronts.

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz on July 13, 2018 

As consumers ready themselves for big deals on Amazon Prime Daytechnology vendors and consultants said there are tactics and strategies that e-commerce retailers can deploy to boost sales, which includes stepping up efforts to create a more personalized experience while offering improved customer service.

Using technology such as machine learnings and artificial intelligence can also give retailers and brands a competitive edge.

Pallab Chatterjee, chairman and chief executive officer of Symphony RetailAI, noted that Prime Day has taken on the “same shopping intensity as Black Friday. As a result of Amazon’s heavy marketing, the growth of its own private-label brands and the acquisition of Whole Foods, this year is anticipated to be bigger than ever.”

Chatterjee said the grocery industry has felt the impact of Amazon “as products typically found in the center store move to online and subscription models.” The CEO said to gain an advantage and perhaps compete against Amazon as well as Whole Foods, “grocers should use their own brands and online presence to launch their own promotions. To ensure that these promotions are effective, grocers need to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning — as these systems have the power to acknowledge, contextualize and react to every data point from all channels in real-time — in order to make prescriptive recommendations and optimize promotions that are relevant to consumers.”

Roland Gossage, CEO of GroupBy Inc., said that given the level of participation expected from consumers on Prime Day, “retailers who want to get in the game and convert the sale must ensure that every customer can easily find what they’re looking for, and that is done through product data.”

“Consumers today rely on an increasing amount of information when shopping for items online, so accurate and extensive details for products, including product reviews, is essential to increased product findability, more relevant search results and ultimately increased sales,” Gossage explained. “Retailers must have a product data enrichment strategy in place in order to improve product findability and relevancy, especially if they want to keep pace with Amazon on Prime Day. Additionally, retailers who sell larger and more expensive products during Amazon Prime Day will need to include enhanced product descriptions to remedy the issue of the lack of physical contact with these items during online purchases.”

Last year, analysts estimated Amazon’s Prime Day event generated $1 billion in sales — a 60 percent gain over the prior year.  Casey Gannon, vice president of marketing at Shopgate, added that mobile app shoppers on Prime Day doubled from the prior year. And this year sales are expected to be just as robust — helped by the fact that the hours have been extended and there are more products on offer.

“Customer retention is something that Amazon has totally mastered, and small businesses or midmarket retail brands are trying to catch up,” Gannon said. “However, a key thing they must remember is that they’re not Amazon, and that’s not something to feel daunted by. If retailers can build a great brand with diverse products and exceptional customer service, customers will realize that truly not everything is available on Amazon. Retailers should think about their brand and how to market it — and, if they don’t have an app, think about what a mobile channel could do for them.”

Adrien Nussenbaum, cofounder and U.S. CEO of Mirakl, said while Prime Day will “mobilize shoppers and break Prime Day records for Amazon, there’s one group that won’t necessarily be a winner on July 16 and 17: third-party sellers.”

Nussenbaum explained that with various barriers Amazon implemented on sellers, “such as requiring them to use Fulfillment by Amazon, as well as Amazon’s early and significant discounts on its private brands, sellers might invest significantly in promotion, fulfillment and service products for little return.”

“On Prime Day, sellers should expect razor-thin margins thanks to the increase in other sellers trying to rapidly move inventory,” Nussenbaum said. “This will be exacerbated by Amazon’s announcement in June that they will penalize third-party sellers for storing inventory in Amazon warehouses for too long. Meanwhile, Amazon will come out on top by stepping on the backs of its third-party sellers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon rule with an iron fist and pay to further discount seller items like it did during the holidays in order to showcase significant growth.”

Nussenbaum said it was important to remember that Amazon’s shareholders “value growth and innovation, not profit margin, so [Amazon will] do what’s necessary to show exceptional growth on Prime Day.”

The Mirakl CEO said to “combat” Amazon’s approach and gain more visibility, “sellers should push to partner with online marketplaces run by retailers who put more value in their sellers. In doing so, sellers can become less reliant on Amazon and less exploited by the retail giant.”

 

Originally published by Women’s Wear Daily on July 13th, 2018

Bluefly’s Many Reinventions

Before Bluefly was what it is today, the retailer was the golf sportswear company Pivot Rules. Though it officially changed names — and functions — in 1998, 20 years later, the firm still knows the value of a strategic pivot in an eCommerce marketplace that is always in flux.

As  an early pioneer in high-end fashion retailing on the web, said board member and former CEO of Bluefly Neel Grover, the firm has always been focused on staying in style. That means their outlook as a firm has evolved a lot over the last few years from being a  fashion firm selling on the web to a web company that is selling fashion.

It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. Though Bluefly was one of the few firms that managed to make it out of the great “.com bust” intact, it struggled to maintain its footing in a digital market that found itself flooded with high-fashion retailers from the web. The business, once public, went private in a $13 million “fire sale” deal to an affiliate of Clearlake Capital Group.

Grover has been CEO since the sale and latest reset of the Bluefly ambition.

“The brand assets underlying Bluefly were undeniably strong — this was a good brand, with consistent traffic and access to designer inventory,” Grover said, noting that what the firm lacked was a modern outlook on the eCommerce landscape, which meant the powerful core assets were fundamentally underutilized.

He added, “What we initially focused on, and what remains really paramount, are operations: delivery, fulfillment and customer service. Everything we’ve done since then (our increased presence on mobile, our changeover to a pure marketplace model), all of that is built on enhanced logistics that put the products in the customer’s hand when they expect them.”

Those changes, have come quickly over the last few years. Bluefly was once something of a traditional online retailer that owned inventory, managed drop shipping and ran a consignment business. As of 2017 (after a long transition period), the site had fully transitioned to a fashion and design marketplace, with a few thousand brands sold by a few hundred high-fashion retailers — all customized for mobile.

Bluefly has changed a lot in 20 years, but its reason for existing hasn’t— it finds what consumer seek when it comes to high-fashion items. That means upgrades continue.

The brand recently announced its partnership with the Mirakl Marketplace Platform to increase its marketplace seller network and operational agility, and decrease its onboarding time for merchants.

“I’ve known the Mirakl team for many years and I’m excited to finally work with them to take our marketplace to the next level “said Yann Tanini, president of Bluefly. “As we explored options to advance our business and eCommerce offering, it was very clear that Mirakl’s out-of-the-box marketplace solution, combined with their expertise, offered Bluefly the best possible solution to grow and scale our marketplace.”

Since going forward, growth is the goal for this long-lived, but still relatively small, niche in the online fashion marketplace. Today, Bluefly has about 250 merchants on its platform, a number it is looking to quadruple in the next 18 to 24 months to 1,000. That’s a big ambition for a small firm, and part of that planned growth spurt involves expanding into international marketplaces, a challenge in its own right.

Now, nearly five years into its latest reset, the former CEO remains confident in what the marketplace can do next.

“Our buying and merchandising teams need to be at their best so we can curate and showcase the products customers want in our inventory,” Grover told Retail Merchandiser in 2013. “And the marketplace helps us introduce new brands. We have a careful vetting process, as our team knows what customers want as part of a high-end and unique experience. We have technology that allows us to showcase products to customers, and we can reach out to customers through targeted messaging.”

Amazon Consolidates Retail, Marketplace Operations Under One Team

Amazon is merging its retail and Marketplace teams behind the scenes, according to a company statement reported on by Business Insider. The retailer has “been working for some time on standardizing the products, tools, and services we offer to the brands and resellers that sell on Amazon,” with the ultimate goal of making the difference between Amazon and third-party purchases seamless.

Amazon already has been implementing standards to regulate the practices of third-party sellers. Retailers using Amazon’s site have limits on how much they can charge for shipping and deadlines for how long a purchase can wait before it is sent to the customer.

The changes have put more operations under Doug Herrington, SVP of the North America Consumer business, according to CNBC. The Marketplace had operated under the leadership of Sebastian Gunningham, SVP of Seller Services, until he left the retailer in March 2018. Vice President of Amazon Marketplace Peter Faricy has been in charge of the division since then, but people familiar with the matter say many of his responsibilities have been shifted to other executives.

The Marketplace has faced challenges not experienced by the retail division, such as counterfeit products and false reviews. A study by the Government Accountability Office found 20 out of 47 items purchased from third-party sellers through the e-Commerce sites of retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, were counterfeit.

“This is a clear signal from Amazon that its marketplace is core to its long-term business strategy, and it should not be managed separately,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, Co-Founder and U.S. CEO of Mirakl in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints. “Although Amazon has struggled to prevent seller fraud, the fact is that the third-party marketplace is now responsible for half of Amazon’s sales.”

Originally published on Retail TouchPoints on June 27th, 2018

More Cost-Conscious Consumers Head to Marketplaces for Bargains

Retailers could be facing a perfect storm: not only do consumers want a personalised and engaging experience, they also go for the lowest price – something that could cost retailers dear.

A new study by Mirakl finds that, while consumers across Western Europe are shopping more than ever, they are increasingly looking for bargains – and their first port of call is Amazon.

According to the research, 85% of 25-34 year olds say they often check the price of an item on Amazon before completing their purchase elsewhere, and 71% of shoppers admit they have stopped shopping with a retailer because another website offered a better price.

Young professionals were the most demanding shoppers, with 32% saying they shop with more than 5 retailers a month on average (compared to 20% of Gen Z saying the same and 21% of shoppers aged 55 and over). And if a retailer fails to deliver, they aren’t afraid to talk with their feet; 89% of consumers say they have experienced an out-of-stock product with 73% completing the purchase at another retailer website. One third vocalised that this makes them less likely to shop with that retailer again in the future.

With the increase of the on-demand and platform economy, more and more customers are looking for retailers to offer complimentary services alongside their products. Sixty-four percent of 25-34 year olds said they would be interested in purchasing services alongside their goods, such as installation for a washing machine, tennis lessons alongside new rackets or beauty services alongside make-up items.

“It’s clear that even in the experience-led world of modern shopping, consumers still seek a bargain. And with Amazon increasingly becoming the first destination for product searches, the risk to UK retailers is that they never get the chance to win the sale. The good news is that when offering choice and competitive prices, the research suggests consumers will remain loyal to a handful of sites – suggesting it’s not too late. Retailers should focus on delivering value for their customers, going stock-less can eradicate those out-of-stocks which result in a poor customer experience and if they aren’t already, consider offering services alongside their products to upsell customers at the crucial time.”
– Nick Bareham, UK Country Manager, Mirakl

The research is a stark indication that not only now do consumers demand engaging experiences and personalisation around their shopping experience, they also want low prices.

How to deliver this is going to increasingly sort those retailers that have mastered costs and those that haven’t. While consumers are using Amazon to check out the bargains, retailers need to look closely at how they can be the provider of those bargains and work at creating a marketplace strategy.

This echoes the warning by M&S ex-boss Marc Bolland, who last week urged ailing High Street retailers to partner with Amazon rather than trying to fight against it for precisely this reason.

 

Originally published on Tamebay on June 26th, 2018

Mirakl Research Shows Consumers are More Cost Conscious than Ever Before and Retailers Could Be Missing a trick

New research commissioned by Mirakl, the leading global marketplace solutions provider,  has found that while consumers across Western Europe are shopping more than ever, they are increasingly on the lookout for a bargain and not afraid to shop around. Eight-five percent of 25-34 year olds say they often check the price of an item on Amazon before completing their purchase elsewhere, and 71% of shoppers admit they have stopped shopping with a retailer because another website offered a better price.

Young professionals were the most demanding shoppers, with 32% saying they shop with more than 5 retailers a month on average (compared to 20% of Gen Z saying the same and 21% of shoppers aged 55 and over). And if a retailer fails to deliver, they aren’t afraid to talk with their feet; 89% of consumers say they have experienced an out-of-stock product with 73% completing the purchase at another retailer website. One third vocalised that this makes them less likely to shop with that retailer again in the future.

With the increase of the on-demand and platform economy, more and more customers are looking for retailers to offer complimentary services alongside their products. Sixty-four percent of 25-34 year olds said they would be interested in purchasing services alongside their goods, such as installation for a washing machine, tennis lessons alongside new rackets or beauty services alongside make-up items.

For Mirakl, the responses demonstrate the need for retailers to focus on providing better product choice at competitive prices, and consider how they can provide even greater value by offering related services.

Key findings from the survey, canvassing 1,000 shoppers in the UK, Germany and France in February 2018, can be found below:

  • 92% of consumers shop around to find the best price with a quarter saying they always do this
  • 85% check prices on Amazon before completing purchase elsewhere
  • 68% of shoppers admit to adding additional products to their online cart they didn’t intend to buy when they started their shopping session.
  • 77% of 35-44 year olds have stopped shopping with a retailer because a competitor offered better prices
  • 62% of 18-24 year olds have stopped shopping with a retailer because a competitor offered a greater selection of products
  • 89% of shoppers have experienced an out-of-stock, with a third saying they are less likely to shop with that retailer again.

Nick Bareham, Mirakl, UK Country Manager, commented: “It’s clear that even in the experience-led world of modern shopping, consumers still seek a bargain. And with Amazon increasingly becoming the first destination for product searches, the risk to UK retailers is that they never get the chance to win the sale. The good news is that when offering choice and competitive prices, the research suggests consumers will remain loyal to a handful of sites – suggesting it’s not too late.”

Retailers should focus on delivering value for their customers, going stock-less can eradicate those out-of-stocks which result in a poor customer experience and if they aren’t already, consider offering services alongside their products to upsell customers at the crucial time.”

Originally published on Retail Times UK on June 26th, 2018

Amazon Merging Marketplace and Retail Operations

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon has largely merged its marketplace and retail teams, according to a company statement circulated to multiple media outlets last week. Amazon didn’t immediately return Retail Dive’s request for more details.
  • “We’ve been working for some time on standardizing the products, tools and services we offer to the brands and resellers that sell on Amazon, and have made some organizational changes as a result,” the company said in a statement. Bloomberg, citing former and current Amazon employees, first reported earlier this month that the marketplace and retail teams were merging.
  • Three months after Amazon Marketplace chief Sebastian Gunningham left for WeWork, the next highest ranking executive on that team, Peter Faricy, has been stripped of many of his responsibilities, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC. Most of those duties have been reassigned to Amazon executives in the retail group, which is led by Doug Herrington, according to the documents.

Dive Insight:

Amazon began as a bookseller but soon morphed into a mass merchant with a huge assortment, increasingly bolstered through the years by the third-party sellers on its marketplace. For more than a year, over half of the goods sold through Amazon have come from third-party sellers.

Those sellers have been a boon when it comes to sales and fulfillment. The marketplace model allows Amazon to reap the benefits of sales without much if any cost of fulfillment and shipping. But as those sales have taken over a greater portion of Amazon’s sales, its reputation for top-notch customer service has suffered, as some sellers fail to provide its customers with solutions to problems, adequate packaging or shipping speeds and, perhaps worst of all, authentic goods or goods-as-advertised.

Amazon’s move to merge its marketplace and retail groups is a signal that third-party sellers are core to its long-term business plan, Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder and U.S. CEO of marketplace platform company Mirakl, told Retail Dive in an email.

“For years I’ve seen resistance to collaborate between these two teams, and not just at Amazon,” he said. “In fact, we had an entire session at our recent customer summit dedicated to alignment because it can make or break the success of the business as a whole. I think Amazon continues to showcase a model worth replicating, where the core of its business is constantly minding the balance between owned and third-party inventory, with customer-centricity as the constant driving force.”

As Amazon continues to invest in its marketplace, pressure is mounting for it to fix the burgeoning sales of counterfeits from third-party sellers. “Seller fraud is an easy issue to overcome with the right solutions that ensure compliance with quality standard,” Nussenbaum said. “As such, there’s no excuse for a company of Amazon’s size with almost unlimited resources to have not solved this problem.”

Originally post on Retail Dive on June 26th, 2018.

B2B Sellers Need Digital Boost to Meet Expectations of Modern Buyers, Report says


Online marketplaces and digital channels are the most popular buying methods, but need improvements to meet buyers’ expectations, according to research by Oracle and Mirakl

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif., – May 3, 2018 In a recent study of 200 B2B buyers conducted by Oracle Commerce Cloud and Mirakl, results show that there is a clear gap between experiences offered by B2B sellers and B2B buyer’s needs for purchasing. The Next Generation of B2B Purchasing Report 2018 studied not only the behavior of today’s B2B buyers but also the differences in attitudes across three generations—Baby Boomers, Gen-X and Millennials.

B2B sellers are missing opportunities as B2B buyers are becoming more comfortable with digital buying experiences. In fact, the report’s key findings conclude:

  • 87 percent of business buyers across all age ranges are already purchasing in online marketplaces, more than any other channel.
  • 73 percent of respondents state they like to purchase in digital channels but only 11 percent chose digital channels as their preferred choice overall, indicating there is a demand for better digital experiences.
  • 14 percent of respondents prefer person-to-person sales as their top purchasing channel, although it’s still the least utilized channel with 70 percent of respondents engaging with a person to purchase. This indicates that B2B buyers want a mix of channels to purchase from.

“The B2B purchasing channels offered today are not cutting it for today’s business buyers. As a result, buyers are still relying on outdated purchasing channels and businesses are left with missed sales opportunities,” said Jeri Kelley, senior product strategist, Oracle Commerce Cloud. “It is imperative that B2B businesses of all sizes invest in a commerce platform that can provide an integrated experience across multiple channels and scale to meet the ever-changing needs of B2B buyers. Those that can drive integrated experiences will thrive.”

“This report clearly validates all age ranges are moving a portion of business purchasing to marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, CEO and co-founder, Mirakl. “As part of their digital transformation agenda, leaders at B2B companies need to incorporate a marketplace strategy to remain relevant to all ages of buyers and accelerate eCommerce.”

Additional Key Findings

  • Millennial, Gen-X and Baby Boomer B2B buyers are all purchasing in online marketplaces already: 97 percent of Millennials, 81 percent of Gen-X and 83 percent of Baby Boomers generally buy through online marketplaces.
  • Age group still plays a role: Millennials are 14 percent more likely to make business purchases through online marketplaces than Baby Boomers, and 16 percent more likely than Gen-X.
  • Business buyers in North America prefer marketplaces over any other channel: 38 percent of respondents prefer purchasing on marketplaces over other digital channels, RFP/tender process, eProcurement systems and person-to-person channels.
  • The less negotiation, the better: In each age group, approximately 70 percent of business buyers value the fewer negotiations and improved sales processes associated with marketplaces and online buying channels.
  • Outdated purchasing channels still used despite preference: Only 8 percent of overall respondents prefer eProcurement systems for B2B purchasing but 71 percent of respondents continue to purchase through this channel. In addition, 59 percent of respondents overall do not prefer RFPs but 84 percent continue to use this channel as well.

To find out more about the Oracle Commerce Cloud and Mirakl Next Generation of B2B Purchasing Report, 2018, visit Oracle at the O-Zone Customer Experience Lounge and Mirakl (booth 300) at the B2B Online Conference, May 7-8 in Chicago, IL.

About the Report
The data in the Oracle Commerce Cloud and Mirakl Next Generation of B2B Purchasing Report, 2018 is based on a survey of 200 B2B buyers across Europe, Latin America and North America. The report was conducted by WBR Insights. All respondents are directly involved in their company’s buying process and represent companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue.

Additional Resources

SMITH and Mirakl Announce Strategic Partnership

The partnership is designed to help B2B and B2C brands drive revenue, and explore the role of Mirakl in augmented commerce.

SEATTLE – Oct. 11, 2017 – SMITH, a leading global commerce agency position as the Architects of Future Commerce, announced today a strategic partnership with Mirakl, the leading global marketplace platform provider. The partnership combines SMITH’s decades of commerce expertise with Mirakl’s marketplace platform, which helps retailers and brands rapidly extend their range to reach more customers with more products.

Mirakl has over 140 clients across 40 countries, and is on track to see $500 million Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) realized through their platform in 2017.

“More and more of our clients are looking to maximize their brand’s reach and capitalize on customer traffic to their sites,” said Ryan Heusinkveld, CTO, SMITH. “Mirakl provides a solution for brands to engage in commerce through downstream partners, ensuring that marketing efforts translate into revenue.”

SMITH’s combination of highly-experienced strategists and over 20 years of deep ecommerce technical implementation experience allows the company to use Mirakl to open new and very profitable opportunities for our clients within very aggressive timelines.

“We’re very excited to partner with SMITH,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, U.S. CEO and co-founder, Mirakl. “Their truly unique focus on architecting the future of commerce, backed by artificial intelligence and other experiential solutions, aligns with our vision of the evolution of commerce. While we offer brands and retailers a platform for ensuring they always have the best offer possible for customers, SMITH brings the experience of finding those products to life in truly innovative ways.”

Both teams will be attending the SAP Hybris Live: Global Partner Summit in Barcelona, Oct. 17-19, where the SMITH team will be showcasing a prototype HoloLens-driven augmented commerce experience with Mirakl integrated.


About SMITH

SMITH helps B2B and B2C brands navigate the future of commerce to differentiate and grow. Whether this means creating and implementing anywhere, anytime buying experiences, enabling the sales force, or incorporating the latest in mobile, voice, and AI, SMITH provides end-to-end commerce and content services to deliver successful business outcomes and happy customers. Privately owned with over 20 years of commerce experience, SMITH combines the expertise of Cactus Commerce and Ascentium in servicing clients such as AT&T, Microsoft, and PCNA with custom solutions and platform partners such as Episerver, SAP Hybris, and Sitecore. The company is headquartered in Seattle and has offices in Spokane and Ottawa-Gatineau and satellite presence in Dallas, Dayton, Minneapolis, Montreal, and Toronto. 

About Mirakl

Mirakl gives retailers and brands a fast path to increase customer value by launching an online marketplace. The increased value exceeds customer expectations by providing more products, at better prices, with superior service. The Mirakl Marketplace Platform automates the hard things: Seller onboarding, product data management, service quality control, and order distribution; on an API-based solution that’s modular and easy to integrate. Over 140 customers operating marketplaces in 40 countries trust Mirakl’s proven expertise and technology including Hewlett Packard Electronics, Best Buy Canada, Carrefour, Condé Nast, Darty, Galeries Lafayette and Halfords. Founded in 2012, Mirakl helps companies provide a better customer experience as part of their omni-channel strategy. For more information: www.mirakl.com.

 

 

 

 

Market Watch: Macys and Kohls Still Struggling to Come to Grips with the Amazon Effect

Weak holiday sales announcements from Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. furnished experts and analysts with fresh evidence that retailers must further transform their businesses to operate across the bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce channels while seeking ways to expand overseas. Adrien Nussenbaum weighs in on how omni-channel retailers can differentiate from Amazon. Read More.