Mirakl, Unbound Group’s partner in its marketplace venture, was founded 10 years ago in France and has a strong presence across Europe, including in the UK. “We’re a SaaS company that supports players like Unbound that want to launch their marketplace or dropship and grow their offering in order to be more relevant for customers,” said Sophie Marchessou.
According to an annual study conducted by Mirakl, the Enterprise Marketplace Index, 68% of consumers in the UK believe online marketplaces are the “most convenient way to shop” – “because you can access more products at the right price when you want it,” said Marchessou. She believes that consumers’ desire for this convenience and choice, offered by a retailer that they trust, is a major factor fuelling the online marketplace ‘boom’.
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“Consumers are really looking for choice, the right price, convenience, within trusted platforms – a platform that they enjoy going to; but they’re also now used to being able to find what they want, when they want it, at the right price,” she said. “Their expectations are raising, and I think for retailers that are those trusted go-to platforms for consumers, it is challenging on a traditional wholesale model to be able to supply all that choice, breadth of category, and depth of assortment within a category, because it does have inventory costs, et cetera.
The great asset of a marketplace, she said, is “to still have that relationship with the customer, and still have the customer data and the insights that come with it, while being able to test new categories and test broader depths of assortment in certain categories with less risk and less capital implication – because inventory is owned by the seller or the brand, and then ships to the customer. It’s a more flexible business model that caters to the increasing needs of consumers, and I think that’s why you’re seeing that model thrive.”
Marchessou added that for brands and partners listing their products on a retailer’s marketplace, the platform is attractive because they have more control over the businesses that they work with, “So I think everything is aligned between consumers, retailers’ expectations, and also brands in the ecosystem to fuel the growth of marketplaces
“The advantage of a marketplace is that we can continue to grow and continue to add brands that we know will resonate with our customers,” Rose said. “We absolutely intend to add more partners – we believe that we’re at the start of a journey, and we’ve got some really good partners already. However, we’ll learn from this, and we’ll be driven by the insights we get from the platform – so we’ll make sure that we have the data, and we’ll continue to work with our customers to understand what their needs are.”
Unbound Group has a plan to expand into offering services “at the right time”, and Rose noted that this move would be driven by the insights that the company gets from its marketplace. “We have a customer database of over four million people at the moment, which is one of our strengths, especially in the demographic that we’re in. We’re making sure that we continue to grow that database and learn from it as well.” A lot of work that the company does on Hotter, Rose said, is driven by data: “We do a lot of user research, a lot of experimentation to find out what it is our customers want, and how they want to shop with us – so we’ve got a lot of experience we can bring forward from Hotter onto the Unbound platform.”