Serena: We are talking today around the subject of Total Commerce, and I wondered if you could set the scene a little. What do we actually mean by Total Commerce and where does your work at Linnworks fit into all of that?
Simon: Thanks Serena and pleasure again to be with you today. So, from a Total Commerce perspective, when we talk about Total Commerce, we’re talking about how eCommerce has really grown and accelerated over the last two years from the pandemic.
So, we see more and more consumers looking to buy products online because that’s been the main way that they’ve been able to reach and buy from brands. And therefore, I think brands have had to react to that and also look at how they can reach more customers directly, really through selling online.
When we’re talking about Total Commerce, it’s really looking at how brands need to reach their customers in channels where they’re spending their time. Looking at digital channels like eCommerce websites, social commerce, and marketplaces where we’ve actually seen phenomenal growth. Over 50% of overall global online sales go through marketplaces. It’s really about brands trying to create a seamless customer experience whilst making sure their brand is present on whichever channel their customers are spending their time in.
Serena: So is it similar to Omnichannel? Does Total Commerce include Omnichannel or is it the same kind of language regurgitated? Where does that fit in?
Simon: I think it’s very similar to Omnichannel. When you talk about Omnichannel, you’re talking about brands being able to sell through certain channels. Total Commerce is a very similar concept, but we’re really talking about if you’re looking to reach customers through more channels. There are a number of challenges with that from an eCommerce-specific mindset. So you’re looking at how to manage all of your very specific kind of product data, how do you deliver seamless experiences? How do you make sure you’re delivering that post-sale experience as well, which will come together when you’re trying to tie together what we call Total Commerce.
Serena: So Linnworks is an automation platform that handles lots of processes around your fulfillment, your order processing, and your inventory. And you’ve created a really interesting Whitepaper called ‘Effortless Economy’, where research found that 76% of consumers have convenience as their number one priority. What does this tell the retailers, or your customers, around the consumer demands of their shoppers?
Simon: Yeah, so when we’re talking about the effortless economy, this really touches on Total Commerce. But when you’re looking at Total Commerce, we’ve seen through the research that convenience is the number one priority essentially. So 76% of consumers that responded to a recent survey basically said that convenience is number one priority. Therefore, it’s really looking at how consumers are defining the experience that should be set from a brand point of view.
If we look at ourselves as consumers, we expect an easier experience and will tend to go for whatever is the most convenient route with the least amount of friction. From a brand perspective, it’s making sure they have a presence across the channels that are easiest for consumers to browse. Starting at the beginning of the buying journey where consumers are doing their research. When a consumer searches for a product, they’re generally presented with all sorts of different channels. So when searching through a search engine, various different websites can come up. It’s about trying to help them have one central place where they don’t need to shop around and browse a lot of different products in one place.
Generally, 65% of consumers will start their buying journey on a marketplace like Amazon for example, where they’ve got a one-stop shop. They can see lots of different products and they compare prices. Or maybe they’ve just got confidence that they’ve got a very competitive price with lots of options around easy delivery and so on.
Also, it’s about considering the mindset of the consumer and making sure the brand has that presence on all of the different potential channels. So, I guess it’s kind of a long way of answering, but there are a number of facets to that effortless commerce or effortless economy. And really, convenience tends to be that number one factor where brands are trying to make it an easy user experience.
Adapting retail for convenient consumers
Serena: From a consumer perspective, we’re all so spoiled at the moment. Personally, I want to get the same experience I get on marketplaces across emails and socials. And so what does this actually mean for the retailers? How can they take this knowledge around convenient commerce and adapt their approach to make this a priority for their sales strategy?
Simon: I think they just need to be considering ‘who is their customer’? Where are they spending their time? What are the channels that are most relevant for them that they potentially should be selling through? And making sure that they’re looking at the whole user experience. As far as making it frictionless, you touched on social. So for example, things like being able to browse products, converting and buying through social media without necessarily having to be diverted to a browser or a website.
From that point, there are various factors that help with that conversion, including delivery and payment options. We’ve seen a big rise in the likes of ‘buy now, pay later’, for example. So these types of convenience factors are really big elements in a consumer’s decision when they’re looking at converting. So, how do you make it easy to find your product? But then also converting once they find that without having to shop around too much?
Serena: I know at Pimberly, one of the biggest drivers from our customers who are selling across multiple marketplaces, is the challenge that comes with pushing their product data across all of these different channels. It’s so important for them to have the central repository and the single source of truth. A central place to work from, where they can then push product data out from. Rather than dipping in and out of different channels and updating one channel, but then manually going in and updating another and vice versa.
What’s your experience with that?
Simon: You’re right, it’s with the shameless plug of Pimberly plus Linnworks, but Pimberly does so much of that heavy lifting around the detail of optimizing product information for whichever channels you’re looking to sell through. Linnworks works alongside Pimberly (?) to push that across the various different channels that consumers would buy through. And to centralize that inventory and order management across all those channels as well. So I think it works really well as far as what merchants are looking for. The right solutions are really important to fit their requirements that really enable them to deliver the journeys that they want to deliver for their customers. But at the same time, it’s important to not overcomplicate things too. Too many integrations can make things complex to manage.
Serena: And integrations to marketplaces – that’s what Linnworks manages, right?
Simon: Yes, we are a Commerce Automation Platform. So at its core, we really specialize as a multi-channel inventory and order management platform to help brands grow by reaching more customers through more channels. But also reducing friction through the business to sell in a more seamless way. A really big strength of ours is our ability to integrate different marketplaces and over 70 different shipping providers, as well as all the other various different back-end systems that customers may be using. Whether that be PLM, ERP, accounting platforms, etc.
Serena: Before using a Commerce Automation Platform, how might retailers be managing these areas? What kind of challenges do you solve through central automation?
Simon: We see a lot of companies that have challenges related to scaling their businesses. The right digital solutions enable them to grow with automated updates of product catalog information, stock levels, and processing of orders which require a lot of ongoing maintenance and updates. And often we see that businesses are using spreadsheets or legacy systems to manage this, which leads to errors being made or time wasted. Linnworks specializes in providing that dedicated platform to manage a lot of that and really free up the front-end. It, therefore, becomes the dedicated platform to manage the operational processes for eCommerce. The front end can therefore specialize in being a sales channel and having the speed and performance needed.
From a brand point of view, it’s really about increasing your control by having everything centralized in one place, which then in turn allows you to automate and solve a number of challenges off the back of that.
Serena: One thing you touched on there is actually being able to free up resources, time, and employees skills to actually work on front-end stuff. Which is a huge benefit. And, it’s a conversation we’re continuously having in the Pimberly office. Consumers won’t necessarily know what a Total Commerce platform, or Product Information Management platform is, and they shouldn’t. This should be automated at the back-end, to free up space for the brand to focus on factors that the consumers will notice. Usually if consumers are noticing, it’s because something has gone wrong.
Simon: I I think all of that ties back to that convenience factor again really doesn’t it. To be presented with the information that consumers want to see when they want to buy. And it’s not necessarily easy to do if you don’t have all of this information centralized.
Serena: If something is effortless, it’s by nature convenient. Consumers won’t necessarily consciously notice if they’re getting all of the right information. But they will notice if something’s jarring, not there, or inaccurate.
Finally, you touch on the importance of retailers being available across many channels. With social and live commerce emerging at the moment, if not very much established, which channel do you think has the most upcoming potential for retailers?
Emerging channels to watch
Simon: Yeah, really interesting question. I think there are really exciting opportunities in social commerce and the rise of the likes of Tik Tok and Instagram. I think there’s going to be huge growth and there’s still a lot more potential there.
Marketplaces are the epitome of convenience in the fact that you go to one place to consume and browse products. And Amazon has really set the benchmark on that and there are a lot of other players that are looking to capitalize and do that in their own way. We’re also seeing a lot more of these vertical-specific marketplaces that are tailored to various kinds of similar types of products. Whether that be beauty, sports or fashion, for example. Therefore, I think there are going to be a lot more of these types of opportunities for retailers to benefit from.
If you look specifically from a brand point of view, I don’t think there’s necessarily one that is going to be the most important. But it’s about finding and getting the balance of what is the right platform for that brand and making sure it fits with their brand. But also has the right kind of customer profile and the right audiences. We’re also seeing a lot more traditionally offline brands starting to launch their own marketplaces and move into that online marketplace world as well. So, I think there are a number of exciting opportunities. Brands should think about how they reach customers and which are the right channels for them. But I think it’s just about working out what is the right fit based on those various different factors.
Serena: Primark is a perfect example of that. Historically and I guess famously, Primark has never had its own eCommerce site. But it has like 6 million followers on Instagram and so it definitely is selling online. But it’s selling through social commerce, and I think it’s a great example of retailers who can think out of the box to make it work for them.
Simon: I think it’s a good example of being talked about for a number of years, with people asking when it’s going to go online. But, like you say, Primark has been very successful without going down that traditional model. So it’ll be really interesting to see how it evolves.