“There’s no doubt marketplaces are here to stay and that they will grow in importance,” says Victoria Betts, chief operating officer at Hotter Shoes. For, marketplaces are now a key part of Hotter Shoes’ multichannel strategy as it looks to reach new and existing customers around the world. It is looking for new marketplace partnerships in areas from Asia to Europe where its shoes already sell well.
“In order to remain competitive, retailers cannot afford to ignore marketplaces,” says Betts. “There is a huge opportunity to be embraced and retailers can maximise potential for online sales through establishing the right strategic partners. But in order to do it well, multichannel needs to be at the core of the firm’s ecommerce strategy, supported by the very best integrated technology, state-of-the-art logistics model and strategic product and market decisions.”
Hotter’s strategy is one of global brand expansion, moving into a market online first in a way that enables it to serve a market more efficiently – supported by efficient logistics and warehousing – while testing the appetite both for its local range and for new products. “Overall the customer journey can be much more improved as they have far more options to buy Hotter products online via trusted channels,” says Betts.
Marketplaces are a central part of Hotter’s multichannel strategy, alongside a direct-to-consumer business and sales via retail partners including The Very Group, Next and Amazon UK.
Making key decisions
Hotter decides which marketplace to use based on brand recognition and customer demographics. Having the right fit is important both for giving customers the right experience and for growing sales via the channel. “Once we agree that it’s the correct partner synergy, we start to identify what product sets would perform best on a specific platform,” says Betts. “Each has to be completely tailored depending on geography and demographics.
“A big decision point is whether the technological and logistical integration is compatible in order for the customer journey to be smooth. Once this has been established, a real benefit to marketplaces is the flexibility they provide. For example, it’s important that some of our marketplace partners allow us to change pricing quickly. This is in line with our agile manufacturing process. Product strategy is also a crucial tactic that is utilised differently across our marketplace partnerships. We have agreements with some to focus on sales stock we might want to retire, while others sell full-priced items only.”
Hotter uses ChannelAdvisor to manage data feeds, an approach that “has allowed us to plan ongoing and future activity in line with the expected growth of Hotter”. Betts advises delivering product and pricing data via a single feed, for efficiency, and building strong working relationships with marketplace hosts – tapping into their marketing stream for visibility and momentum. Sticking to service level agreements is key, says Betts – but she also advises ensuring that terms fit a brand’s manufacturing and delivery process. She says it’s important to be strategic and not offer too large a product selection on each marketplace. Also key is making sure operational and logistics are fully planned, including the supporting documentation from despatch notes to invoices, returns labels and packaging. Be aware of commercial requirements, such as the implications of Brexit when shipping to the EU.
“At Hotter, we will continue to work closely with each partner, maximising brand exposure and expansion,” says Betts. “We will continue to monitor and analyse demand, sales, efficiencies, opportunities and a road map for the future of our multichannel approach.
“Ultimately with a joined up approach, marketplaces will continue to provide a global network of platforms that launch, promote and grow the Hotter brand.”