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Natalys Marketplace

What Systems do I Need to Fulfill my Cross-Channel Strategy?

4 questions for Mathieu Jourdain, head of e-commerce at Natalys

Since 1953, Natalys has provided for future and young parents from pregnancy to the third year of the child. The brand joined the Sergent Major group and launched its e-commerce website, Natalys.com, in 2009. The brand now embodies the example of a successful cross-channel strategy. From launching its marketplace to optimizing its product catalogue, Mathieu Jourdain, head of e-commerce at Natalys, shows us the keys that made this long-standing retailer a shining example of successful cross-channel retailer.

Natalys sells its products both in store and on the Natalys.com website. The entire catalog is available on the website and in store. The brand is even planning to launch a community website in the near future, dedicated to selling Natalys branded articles secondhand. This is innovation in action and a powerful driving force for fulfilling the needs of its customers, who are continually seeking more choice at the right price with a good quality of service, which the brand has been providing for almost 60 years now.

 

How important is product information management to you?

MJ: The quality of our product data is one of our primary concerns. It is crucial to have a standardized and centralized product database. We needed to have a collaborative and user-friendly system, that could be used and connected to every department: Purchasing, Logistics, photo shoots and web-merchandising. In other words, we needed a PIM (Product Information Management). It has even become an essential tool of our cross-channel strategy. What’s more, it did not take long for us to choose Akeneo, the leading open-source solution on the market. In addition to being easy to integrate and user-friendly, the solution was already being used by other brands of the group. The Akeneo PIM made it possible for us to standardize and control the quality of our product information.

 

Why launch a marketplace now? And why Mirakl?

MJ: The launch of our marketplace forms part of an overarching strategy, the objective of which is to innovate in order to fulfill the needs of our customers and boost our growth. Nowadays, in order to play a leading role in a given sector, one must be in a position to offer a broad choice to our ever more demanding customers. The marketplace provides a solution to the problem of catalog expansion, so that the Natalys teams can react to customer demands much more quickly. In our opinion, it is much less complicated and less risky to bring in a new supplier or a new category of products using the marketplace than listing it on our standard website. This strengthens our position as a specialist with a greater product depth, while also offering a long tail of related products that can appeal to our customers.

We chose Mirakl because it is the leading, most comprehensive solution on the market, giving us access to all the functionality needed to operate our marketplace quickly and successfully. Mirakl’s strength lies in the support provided by its teams throughout the project and after its launch.

 

In order to fulfill the expectations of Natalys’s customers, you decided to launch a marketplace grounded in robust management of product data. What are you expecting to gain from it?

MJ: Within 3 years, the Natalys marketplace will represent at least 30 % of our sales and will be completely cross-channel.

Natalys’s objective is to have all of the Natalys and Marketplace product data stored in a single database so that each department can modify and add to the data of the partner sellers. As a result, when our customers are browsing our website, there will be no noticeable difference between a product sold and shipped by Natalys, and that of a partner seller. Standardized data also helps to improve the user experience, ensuring a remarkable end-to-end shopping experience.

In addition to this, we have many objectives for further development with the aim of improving our growth. For instance, we are seeking to expand the Services and Young Creator aspects as well as the sale of secondhand products through the Natalys community. The international segment will also contribute to our growth, and the marketplace is a very powerful tool for growing a local presence.

 

“The common trait between Mirakl and Akeneo? Two flexible solutions that are easy to integrate! “

Mathieu Jourdain

 

In your opinion, what are the key factors of success of your cross-channel strategy?

MJ: First off, we need to know how to drive change within our business. There will always be some internal resistance when innovative projects are put on the table. In our case, this change was put forward directly by management. The chairman and managing director as well as the brand manager played a significant role in developing the strategy and overall approach, which was instrumental in facilitating its deployment internally.  The Marketplace project also helped breathe new life into our teams, both at headquarters and in stores. In this type of project, the need to tackle many “political” obstacles is always to be expected. The change is significant and operational conventions, which have been established over long periods of time, are being more or less broken. The cross-channel strategy must be supported by all teams at headquarters as well as in stores. To achieve this, all the stakeholders must be involved from the very beginning of the project and at every step, whether it is during the analysis phase regarding the choice of the system, or the integration phase and the decision on whether to favor a gradual deployment of the project or in big-bang mode.

 

Secondly, connectivity is essential within the framework of a cross-channel project. Today, it is better to opt for tried and tested technologies and specialists in their domain, who will help create connections with the entire ecosystem. Mirakl and Akeneo are two leading recognized solutions that have developed a common connector that can be used to integrate them easily. The decision to select these solutions was all the more obvious for us because of that.

Compete Customer

Why You Must Allow Sellers to Compete With You in Your Online Marketplace

Are you worried about your competition? Does the threat of rival sellers perhaps keep you and your team up at night?

To an extent, all competition is healthy in business. It fosters innovation, encourages vendors to better serve their customers, and gives power to the consumer to determine who ultimately earns their loyalty.

But, staying too focused on outperforming competition in the short term is a nearsighted strategy. As critical thinker Edward de Bono said, “Companies that solely focus on competition will die. Those that focus on value creation will thrive.”

Related: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Mirakl and ChannelAdvisor found that marketplaces — when operated effectively — are likely to boost customer loyalty, increase average order values, and build trust.

The retail industry is a highly competitive space, especially given the rise of e-commerce and with it, the rising expectations of online shoppers. Generally, shoppers have a multitude of options available to them, at their fingertips when browsing or making a purchase, putting pressure on the retailers to step up and meet these demands. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but that pressure is exactly why retailers must allow their competition into their online Marketplace.

Drive a broader selection, improve customer experience, and continue the cycle.

In a previous post, we explained why customer loyalty was the #1 reason to build your online Marketplace. Earning this loyalty is paramount to long term, sustainable growth. A key component of that experience is providing a one-stop shop for your category, allowing shoppers to find what they need by navigating conveniently to (and within) your Marketplace. This strategy requires allowing third-party sellers to compete with your own offers, on your own platform.

Sounds crazy, right?

Take Amazon, for example. The e-commerce giant has seen tremendous results from this strategy (virtually half of its annual sales volume!) Hosting additional sellers on its Marketplace gives shoppers the freedom to make the best decision possible. This move also increases Amazon’s product selection considerably, which is an important component of improving customer experience and keeping shoppers returning to this one-stop shop.

As Amazon grew, it lowered its cost structure by leveraging purchases, fulfillment infrastructure and logistics infrastructure, which consequently lowered the cost per unit of products. The lower cost structure allowed Amazon to lower its prices, which further satisfies customers, attracting more traffic and starting the virtuous cycle over again.

The company’s strategy aligns to Jack Welch’s famous three rules of business:

Number 1: Cash is king.
Number 2: Communicate.
Number 3: Buy or bury the competition.

If you’re staying up at night worried about competition, remember that you are presented with an opportunity today to bury your competition through a smart Marketplace strategy. Perhaps the best move you can make is to welcome your competition onto your Marketplace, owning the customer experience and reaping the benefits over time.

These benefits, according to Forrester, include:

1. Capturing new revenue through commissions on sales, without the headache of storing and shipping items themselves
2. Enhancing your customers’ shopping experiences by providing multiple, complementary products and services on a single website
3. Building deeper relationships with consumers by increasing satisfaction and loyalty

To learn more about leveraging a Marketplace with third-party sellers, download the full report from Forrester Consulting.

Virtuous Circle

Secrets of Amazon’s Winning Marketplace Strategy: The Virtuous Cycle

It’s no secret that Amazon has built a highly successful – and highly profitable – online Marketplace. Third-party sales on this platform account for almost half of Amazon’s unit sales. Further proving the potential in this business model, many other high-profile Marketplaces have emerged in the past few years – Apple’s iTunes, Alibaba, and Farfetch, just to name a few.

The secret to the success of Amazon’s model was actually sketched on the back of a napkin by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in 2001. He essentially laid out the foundation for a winning Marketplace strategy: the Virtuous Cycle.

The Key to Success: A Virtuous Cycle

Amazon’s entire approach to success centers on the concept of a “virtuous cycle.” This mindset has driven the company’s strategy since the very beginning. According to Bezos, the cycle begins with a fantastic customer experience, which drives a large volume of traffic. Satisfied customers then attract more customers, mostly through word of mouth.

The additional traffic attracts more sellers to the company’s third-party marketplace, as Amazon’s large volume of site visitors is paramount to these smaller sellers. Amazon, in turn, can ensure breadth of product choice without actually sourcing from partners.

As Amazon grew, it lowered its cost structure by leveraging purchase, fulfillment infrastructure and logistics infrastructure, which consequently lowered the cost per unit of products. The decrease in cost allowed Amazon to lower its prices to shoppers, further satisfying their need to find the best possible price.

This low price point combined with an increased selection was critical to improving, and maintaining, the customer experience that drives this cycle again, and again.

Jeff Bezos Marketplace Strategy

Jeff Bezos – Amazon’s virtuous circle

This business model enables Amazon to make money simply by leveraging the power of its name combined with the efforts of a third-party seller.

Three Keys to a Successful Marketplace

Amazon’s success is a great example of the 3 keys to a successful Marketplace in action:
1. Large product catalog
2. Fair price
3. Great buying experience

When Amazon first opened its Marketplace, some thought it was crazy – why would the e-commerce giant allow customers to buy products from its competitors?

But, as Bezos said, “Since we focus on profit dollars rather than margins, we are largely neutral on whether an item is sold by us or another retailer.”

We at Mirakl consider Amazon to be a model of success for many organizations opening their own Marketplaces. With the Mirakl Marketplace Platform, any retailer can leverage its own virtuous cycle.

Ready to see why Forrester says Retailers Should Seize the Marketplace Opportunity?

ecommerce customer ordering

What your e-commerce Customers Really Want from You

“It’s been said that there are three kinds of marketers and how they deal with trends: Those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.”
(Forbes – Brand and Marketing Trends for 2015)

Global consumer E-commerce sales are expected to reach 1.92 trillion dollars this year. In the US, e-commerce sales this year will top $350 billion for the first time. The impact of the Internet on the retail experience is no longer some hypothetical possibility – it’s real, and it’s causing many retailers to reevaluate their strategies.

See Why Forrester Research Says Every Retailer Needs an online Marketplace

To successfully compete in this space, e-commerce businesses must first understand the expectations of online shoppers. Customer behavior has changed dramatically since the days of traditional shopping in brick and mortar stores. Power has shifted dramatically in favor of shoppers who now demand a broad array of choices, fair prices, and a high quality, convenient shopping experience. Consumers know they have this power and they use it consistently.

Shoppers want to research online

Our buyers now go online first to research, find, review, and complete their purchase experience (or pick up the item in store). In fact, more than 80% of all shoppers studied by PwC said they conduct online research before they buy electronics, computers, books, music, and movies. In addition to these product categories, 60% of shoppers globally (and 73% in the US) conduct similar research online before buying clothing, footwear, toys, and health and beauty products.

“Online research doesn‘t just lead to online purchases, it‘s also critical in leading to purchases through other channels and in driving traffic to physical brick and mortar outlets.” – PwC

While it might seem counter-intuitive, online commerce is a core component – if not the most important one – of an omni-channel commerce strategy.

Shoppers want to buy on the channel of their choice

Even if purchasing from the same retailer, shoppers want to buy goods across more than one channel. 86% of global shoppers (65% in the US) currently shop across at least two channels, while 25% of global respondents and 21% of US respondents are using four or five channels to shop.

This growing trend of multi-channel shopping has radically changed the way buyers shop, and defines the kind of retail customer experience that must be delivered.

Shoppers want to be in control

Online shoppers are savvy, having learned to exploit shopping data and become experts at taking advantage of deals. 46% of Generation Y shoppers and 36% of Generation X shoppers agreed that they can more readily locate information on their personal mobile device rather than asking a salesperson for assistance. This is an absolute sea-change in how retail operates and requires business agility to adapt to this new customer behavior quickly.

E-commerce shoppers have the tools to search, analyze, and decide what is the most suitable option for them, anytime at their convenience. This means they have more control over what to buy, who to buy it from, and all the other options offered to them.

Shoppers want options

Our online buyers are used to selecting from a wide range of products without any constraints. Expanding product inventory is a clear benefit of creating an online Mirakl Marketplace for your business. This matters in an age of instant gratification where shoppers are seeking options — seeking what they want, fast, and for the right price. In this age, retailers are presented with an opportunity to provide consumers with more choices, improving and streamlining the shopping experience and driving incremental revenue, both via net new purchases and the repeat business that comes from satisfied customers.

Buyers want you to keep up with the pack

Expectations are high – just look at the popularity of consumer brands such as Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, and TripAdvisor. These brands have normalized the fluid and frictionless world of giving customers what they want, when they want it. The user experience of these companies is as important to their success as the products or services they provide.

What these brands have done for the majority of online retailers is to set the bar high. Your buyers, who are using these services, expect the same convenience, quality products, quality service, fast shipping, and right price point through the online experience. They have little patience for brands who can’t keep up.

Are you prepared?

There’s no doubt our world of online shopping is reshaping how retailers need to operate in order to compete successfully in today’s market and to satisfy and retain consumers. In fact, it’s consumers who are leading and shaping the multichannel trend – not retailers according to PwC.

To avoid lagging behind, we retailers quickly meet and exceed the new expectations of demanding, dynamic, and volatile buyers. After all, they are one click away from our competition.

Are you prepared to earn the loyalty of these shoppers?

Improve customer experience with a Marketplace

How a Marketplace Improves the Customer Experience

By Jessica Iandiorio, SVP Marketing at Mirakl.

Today’s highly-informed consumer wants a simple, convenient shopping experience whether in a brick-and-mortar store, online, via catalogue, TV shopping networks, or on mobile applications. 86% of online shoppers purchase in more than 2 channels, and 74% of US online shoppers shop across at least two different channels from the same retailer, according to PwC.

To meet the demands of these consumers, retailers must build a consistent shopping experience aligned to consumer expectations. The role of a marketplace is to unify many sellers under one umbrella, driving major gains in both revenue as well as improving the customer experience across channels. A strong marketplace strategy can increase customer loyalty and brand advocacy. Here’s how:

 

Your customers can find everything they expect you to sell.

Customers expect you to provide them with a comprehensive product assortment that covers your entire brand universe. A marketplace increases your assortment and variety, delivering a broader set of products and goods across more categories. Darty, the leading electronics retailer in France, learned that selling bedding online was a hit on their marketplace, and now they sell it in the store.

Watch this 3-minute video where Darty’s CEO Régis Schultz discusses marketplace advantages for their overall customer experience.

With a network of thousands of sellers, you can exponentially increase your product range (without sacrificing data consistency), allowing your buyers to find what they need, whether they’re in-store or online.

Businesses with strong omni-channel strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weaker strategies.

 

You can provide a fair market price.

Your buyers can access competitor pricing at the click of a button, whether they’re comparing options online or Googling from their mobile device in-store. Product pricing needs to be fair – not necessarily the lowest, but rather always aligned to the market itself. A marketplace allows you to increase your price competitiveness without sacrificing margin by allowing your sellers to compete directly on price. The visibility the sellers have to competitive pricing makes it easy to optimize their pricing against other offers.

 

You can offer strong customer service.

The customer journey comes with many stops along the way. From product search, to final delivery, and the management of an ongoing relationship, your delivery of “service” takes on a variety of meanings. Buyers must be able to find what they’re looking for, read detailed and quality product information, experience short shipping lead-time, and receive transparent seller information. By controlling the experience a buyer has with your sellers on your marketplace, and ensuring prompt service after the sale, you can safeguard their time spent with you, and earn their loyalty. Your ability to control the quality of everything from assortment to buyer/seller communication, and delivery, ensures a positive holistic experience for your brand.

Three out of four consumers will actually spend more with a business due to a history of good customer service. What’s more, 86% of them will pay more for a better customer experience.

A marketplace is a proven tactic to improving CX, and helps to future-proof a business against the inevitable but high demands of their increasingly well-informed buyers. For retailers and brands oday, it’s no longer a question of if, but rather, when to make the right moves to improve the overall experience of their shoppers to earn loyal, raving customers.

 

Related reading: Learn how Galeries Lafayette managed to take its customers requests into account, giving them an unrivaled choice, price, and availability with their Marketplace.

Top 5 reasons to open a marketplace

Top 5 Reasons Retailers Need to Launch Their Own Marketplace

By Jessica Iandiorio, SVP Marketing at Mirakl.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Own Marketplace

In the late 14th century the concept of a “marketplace” was an open area within a town where a market was held to foster the exchange of goods in economic trade. You could buy everything from eggs to coal to meats to linen from a variety of vendors. The marketplace itself was the heart of any town.

Fast forward to today, and our world of digital e-commerce and omnichannel retail has redefined this marketplace concept.

Marketplaces today represent a digital opportunity for businesses to give customers the products they’re looking for, at the best price, and with high-quality service.

Similar to their 14th century rendition, today’s marketplaces aggregate the goods of third-party vendors. Instead of a town square, transactions occur on a centralized e-commerce platform.

This, in turn, presents an opportunity to provide consumers with more choices, increase site traffic, improve the customer experience and drive incremental revenue with an efficient cost structure. Forrester found that Marketplace sales are generally twice as profitable than direct sales. In fact, Forrester recently conducted a case study on a Mirakl customer, Darty, who saw a 2-3X boost in profit margin over sales for their owned inventory.

Let’s explore some of the reasons building a marketplace can be a major source of growth for your organization:

  1. Expand your product assortment. Adding a marketplace provides retailers the chance to quickly extend their product assortment and available pool of inventory. This applies to both pureplay online retailers as well as multichannel retailers who also sell via brick and mortar. Just look at the growth of Amazon’s Marketplace. Third-party sales on this platform account for 40% (or 40 billion) of Amazon’s annual sales (as of 2015.)
  2. Reduce your inventory risk. Inventory expansion in the the traditional retail model comes with additional risk and expense. You have to plan, buy, store, and ship products – without knowing if customers truly desire them. This often results in wasted dollars and time. But a marketplace allows you increase your product assortment without taking on the perils of merchandising, buying, warehousing, and shipping; it’s risk-free product expansion. And you get to let your customers tell you what they like and don’t, and use that information before investing in in-store product expansion.
  3. Monetize new traffic. The rapid addition of new sellers and products helps Retailers increase their brand footprint online. All of these new product pages are indexed in Google, increasing the discoverability of your site & product offers. More products = more Google love = more traffic = net new customer acquisition! You’re also able to present existing customers with a more comprehensive product offering, increasing retention and share of wallet. Darty saw a 20% increase in site traffic directly coming from marketplace products.
  4. Improve your customer experience. Retail customers want choice, competitive prices, and above all, an outstanding buying experience. A strong marketplace can deliver this in a truly omnichannel relationship between a department store (for example), and its brands both offline and online. This can provide a reliable, positive journey for shoppers, all while increasing their loyalty and their potential to become future advocates.
  5. Drive profitable growth. Financial analysts estimate the margins related to Amazon’s aforementioned marketplace activities to be about 90%, compared to a 5% margin on direct sales. The reason for this comes down to the marketplace model – Retailers do not have any cost of goods sold in this new world. The overhead is minimal, and marketplace platforms like Mirakl make it easy to onboard new third party sellers & products. Product expansion at scale becomes easy & cost efficient, driving increased traffic, sales, and 2-3X more profitable dollars on those sales than traditional owned products.

Creating an online marketplace is an opportunity to enhance and in some cases disrupt an existing business model – for the better. Whether you’ve started to create your own marketplace, or are trying to understand the value of doing so, consider the marketplace as a way to create sustainable & profitable growth, differentiate your business, improve your customer experience, and accelerate your e-commerce to new heights.