When it comes to growing business online, many use marketplaces to accelerate growth. After all, listing wares with third-party outlets offers a tempting proposition: distribution and reach in exchange for control of your customers and brand.
A downside? You get the sales, but not the data. Yes, you might reach more customers than ever and experience a boost in sales, yet you lack an accurate picture of that growing customer base. But it isn't ideal because you don't have control of your customers and your data.
Luckily, there are two companies out there aggressively working to transform online commerce for businesses just like yours. Their goal? To put brands back in control of their customer data and brand equity – taking the compromise out of digitally growing business.
The Current State of E-Commerce
Tim Hayden, president and managing partner at consultancy Brain+Trust Partners, works with major brands to help them regain control of their online customer experience. While his growing business is booming, it's because there's another online business model also booming: aggregators.
“Over the past 10 years, aggregators have consolidated the online shopping experience to make it more seamless for the customer," Hayden explains. "In the process, however, they've also cannibalized the customer experience when it comes to fees and data."
Brands now have to pay these aggregators to advertise their products to a new customer base—a customer base that's not theirs, but the aggregators.
Brands that have frequent utility, such as food and beverage brands, can now leverage the power of mobile apps and build peer-to-peer relationships with their customers..
—Tim Hayden, president and managing partner, Brain+Trust Partners
According to Jahzeel Omar, head of channel partnerships at Bolt, a company that provides e-commerce infrastructure to businesses, this is a critical challenge facing brands wanting to grow an online business in today's ever-connected landscape.
“Brands are no longer the brand," says Omar. “The marketplace is the brand. This means sellers are being pushed into being makers and purveyors of price with little control over the customer relationship."
That relationship is what both Brain+Trust and Bolt help their clients change. The trick of it all is growing business while retaining control of your customer relationship—or getting back the control previously given to the aggregators.
The Trick: Growing Business While Retaining Control
Both Hayden's and Omar's companies help their clients reclaim the customer relationship by taking on the e-commerce process.
Bolt creates a checkout process complete with built-in security measures and a strong zero-fraud guarantee. Their technology allows retailers to offer the frictionless checkout experience that customers have come to expect from the world's largest marketplaces.
In the current economy, brands that wanted to use marketplaces as a tool for growing business online have to take a double hit to revenue, Omar explains.
"Retailers are forced to change their business on an operations level by trading autonomy for exposure," he says. "They're also paying the marketplace a percentage of each sale. It's a double hit to any business."
By taking back control of the e-commerce experience, retailers may experience increases in revenue increases and fraud-related cost savings.
Hayden's firm empowers retailers to offer a similar frictionless e-commerce experience through one-click buying technology and integrated two-factor authentication, bringing mobile into play as a low-friction sales channel.
“Brands that have frequent utility, such as food and beverage brands, can now leverage the power of mobile apps and build peer-to-peer relationships with their customers instead of relying on the one-click capabilities of large marketplaces," says Hayden.
By integrated tech like one-click purchasing, even the smallest mom-and-pop retailers can reclaim the customer relationship—keeping both the point of sale and customer data in-house.
Both companies recognize that revolutionizing the payment process is essential for brands wanting to regain control of their customer data. Not only do they retain data about customer purchasing habits, geography and frequency, they also gain the potential to market more accurately to a customer's purchasing preferences and needs, which leads to a more profound and more enduring customer relationship.
Becoming a Destination
Both of these companies understand the importance of making brands destinations. After all, that's what the largest online marketplaces have accomplished so successfully.
In our connected, on-the-go world, marketplaces have already solved for simplicity in the mobile checkout process. Consumers flock to marketplaces because they understand they'll have a relatively seamless experience, powered by a fingerprint or a few taps of the finger.
This is why both Hayden and Omar advocate for brands to think about becoming destinations, just like the major marketplaces.
“If it's your mobile app, it's your brand and you own that and the brand experience," says Hayden.
Major coffee retailers are leading the pack, offering branded destinations where customers can both shop and pay. Hayden says it all comes down to creating a culture of convenience for customers while keeping control of customer data.
“Payments is the ultimate point of friction, an exchange of money for goods," he says.
When brands make that as trusted an experience as possible, they become a destination, not just another app or website.
For brands curious about revolutionizing their own e-commerce strategies, Omar suggests partnering to build the brand destination of your dreams.
“Curious brands should leverage startups that are enabling businesses of all sizes to compete with the major marketplaces," he advises. "From creating frictionless purchase experiences like Bolt does or personalization tools that will help show your customers more products relevant to their tastes and purchase history, brands don't have to do it all themselves."
And isn't that what led brands to major marketplaces in the first place, the desire to leverage a partner's technology to increase reach, revenue and sales?
Both Hayden's and Omar's companies are a testament that brands looking for a better way to run an online business don't have to trade what's most precious—a direct relationship with the customer—to increase sales and grow their business for years to come.
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