Retail’s Got A Brand New…Marketplace Model

The reinvention of retail has a thousand fathers.

But only one who thinks that the marketplace model is what can truly turn retail’s focus back to its roots: curating the merchandise that consumers really want to buy.

RevCascade co-founder and CEO, Josh Wexler is putting that hypothesis to the test. Wexler sat down with Karen Webster, fresh off some recent big news — RevCascade is the technology enabler that is powering Crate & Barrel’s newly announced e-commerce marketplace. The big news, Wexler said, isn’t the technology — although without it, executing their marketplace ambitions would be complicated and expensive. It’s the opportunity to rethink Crate & Barrel’s merchandising strategy with a business model that de-risks its merchandising strategy while providing its consumers with a variety of cool new products.

For the first time, Crate & Barrel is opening up its digital shelves to other merchants — an invitation-only process that’s intended to create a “highly curated” marketplace for consumers to explore — and buy.

That curation, Wexler told Webster, is becoming retail’s killer app, as busy consumers want to one-stop shop at a branded retailer whose name they trust while browsing a wide array of items that keep them coming back and spending.

“The goal isn’t for merchants to turn their websites into flea markets,” Wexler told Webster. “This is about creating an organic extension of how retailers are delivering to their consumers. That means they have to be super careful about what they carry and who they work with.”

The curation plus brand name combo, Wexler says, is critical, since customers don’t perceive that they are shopping on Amazon’s marketplace or Alibaba’s marketplace, but rather Amazon or Alibaba because they are confident that they can find what they want to buy at a price they want to pay.

RevCascade exists to help merchants meet those challenges — on a technical, logistical and even merchandising level.

How do they do it?

Solve The “Big Three” Challenges

RevCascade exists to help brands curate better, find more relevant brands and on the whole use the platform as the necessary tool to launch, operate and scale their own marketplaces. Doing that means solving the three big challenges that every retailer runs into when trying to do that via a marketplace strategy: organizing and integrating product data, inventory data and order data into their commerce platforms.

The integration and systems challenges are daunting. So, job number one Wexler told Webster, is to take that off the merchant’s plate. RevCascade’s platform connects retailers with brands that want to be part of their marketplaces and then helps manage those relationships.

Now, Wexler noted, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any work for the retailer — the essential challenge is now more or less editorial: RevCascade presents the options, but ultimately the merchant needs to decide what will best speak to their customer base.

But, he notes, the potential rewards for getting it right are very persuasive.

“Much of what has been reported misses the nuance about what this is all about: organically evolving brick and mortar retailers and inventory stocking so that retailers can offer a great assortment of new products without having to own the inventory – a real win-win-win for the retailer, the brands and the consumer,” Wexler noted.

The Brick And Mortar Solution

And a win, win — or even just a regular old win — is just what traditional retail needs at the moment, Wexler noted.

The marketplace model done this way — with the focus on curation and brand selection — can offer traditional merchants with a brand following, like a Crate & Barrel, a chance to dial up or back their merchandising strategies — and even think more creatively about them — without taking on the kinds of risk typically inherent in bringing out-of-the-box ideas into their stores.

“If you could tell a retailer that you could double your store inventory and shelf space without doubling your budget for products or physical footprint — that’s powerful. That’s what this model can do — it gives retailers the opportunity to experiment with new brands and categories,” Wexler noted. “That is what this curated marketplace opportunity really is — the chance to experiment and experience the upside without the risk of the financial downside.”

Retailers need more inventory — but don’t necessarily want to own. Brands need a home — and being connected by curation to a merchant where they are a natural fit is a natural win. And consumers — well, consumer like choices — and they like it when brands get it right.

“Our goal is to help make it very easy and scalable for brands and retailers to connect with each other — and leverage those connections into better relationships with consumers.”

What’s Next

Wexler says RevCascade, at base, is a way to help both brands and merchants tap into that evolution and unlock values that they probably couldn’t have even conceived of until recently.

“We are really excited about playing a role in that,” Wexler noted as his conversation with Webster concluded.

And we’re excited to keep you posted on just how the marketplace-dominated future shakes out.



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