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Tacking Into the Wind

The Up Next in Commerce Newsletter (May 31, 2020 Edition)

Can you scale a brand that built a reputation on limited edition, unique and eco-friendly products?

Laura Hnatow, Vice President of Marketing & eCommerce for Sea Bags, explains how she’s doing just that in our latest episode of Up Next in Commerce.

All of Sea Bags’ products are made from recycled sailboat sails, donated by their owners directly to their retail store in New England. The sails are then converted into bags and accessories.

And just as the sails can handle virtually any weather, Hnatow’s team is handling a storm of change: Supporting the opening of eight stores this year (for a total of 33), beefing up its eCommerce operation and creating partnerships with local vendors. And all while taking the time to capture the stories of sailors who bring in their sails to be recycled into new products.

The uniqueness of Sea Bags has helped create a hyper-engaged following that spurred enough growth to lead to a major re-platforming of the eCommerce-side of their business.

“There are so many new opportunities for us to improve the customer experience and to refine our practices in terms of how we approach selling to customers,” Hnatow said. “Using new technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and personalization, I think we’re going to be much more efficient and much more sophisticated in how we are able to speak to our customers and give them what they want.”

To hear more about the team’s re-platforming, and for details on how they chased the eCommerce boomlet this past spring (including tips about their most successful advertising techniques), tune in to the episode with Hnatow here.

A Boost for the Small Merchant

Marcelo Cortes, the co-founder and CTO of Faire, also joined the show this week to explain how his company gives smaller retailers a leg up against their big rivals.

“Starting a two-sided marketplace is always a chicken and egg problem,” says Cortes. “You need supply so that you can get demand. But without demand, it’s very hard to get supply.”

Faire is a wholesale marketplace that helps retailers find and buy wholesale, while also connecting makers with the physical stores of businesses. Cortes talks about his goal of making eCommerce more welcoming to small businesses and providing them with the data they need to succeed.

“If you think of a small store, brick and mortar store that might have one to five locations, they’re trying to compete with much larger brick and mortar stores, big box stores, or with eCommerce. They have no data. If you think of Walmart, they have data on all their products,” shared Cortes. “The little store, they’re buying products basically all by intuition… We realized that we can actually build something that will give them the ability to have the same type of tools that much larger businesses, or big box stores, or eCommerce platforms have, to make much more well-informed decisions on what products are going to work well in their stores.”

Cortes shared why commerce leaders should be data-driven, how his team is helping fill the data gap between big and small businesses, and what it’s been like building Faire from the ground up. Listen to the full convo here.

Get Ready For What’s Next

The Up Next in Commerce Newsletter is brought to you by our friends at Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible eCommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce.

Commerce Short Takes

🚀 Does Amazon have some legitimate competition? With their eCommerce sales up 74% year-over-year, Walmart’s online presence is taking off.

⛓ Creating resiliency in the supply chain. Check out the report’s ideas around shipping direct to store, retraining employees to support eCommerce, and reallocating inventory.

💊 A compelling argument for collaboration. The fashion industry has taken a particular hit with COVID-19. Read how some brands are trying to work with their suppliers to lessen the pain.

💰 Contactless payments are here to stay. A recent survey showed that during April, 50% of U.S. consumers reported they had made at least four contactless payments.

If you like this newsletter, then be sure you are subscribed to the Up Next in Commerce podcast! Coming this week: Interviews with Nate Bucholz, Vice President of eCommerce Partnerships at Cardlytics, and Ajit Sivadasan, Vice President and General Manager of Lenovo.

If you want this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox, make sure you’re subscribed here.

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