Crate and Barrel announced the launch of an e-commerce marketplace that features “highly curated” items from third-party sellers — goods that complement the home goods and furnishings retailer's existing merchandise mix, complete with some exclusive items.
"By expanding our assortment, we will significantly increase the choices available to our consumers and offer them an extended aisle of beautiful, curated products from the best designers and manufacturers from around the world," Crate and Barrel CEO Doug Diemoz said in a statement. "All of the new products complement our existing product lines and uphold our commitment to quality, style and customer service."
Crate and Barrel is working with marketplace automation platform RevCascade to foster more seamless integration with its vendor partners.
While the marketplace model is favored by e-commerce giants like Alibaba, eBay, Amazon (which recently said that half of the merchandise sold on its site now originates from third-party sellers) and artisanal site Etsy, brick-and-mortar retailers like Wal-Mart, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue have also deployed marketplaces to boost their offerings to customers.
The marketplace idea is increasingly becoming a way for more traditional retailers to create an “endless aisle” that helps ensure their customers are less likely to stray from their stores or sites when they can’t find exactly what they’re looking for. Doing so requires technology that in many cases also requires retailers to revamp their inventory and order models so that purchasing is seamless for their customers. Even before that, vendors must be carefully selected to be sure their products and customer service jell, says Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder and U.S. CEO of online marketplace platform provider Mirakl.
“A good platform must allow heavy vendor management and vendor curation for quality control,” Nussenbaum told Retail Dive earlier this year. “And once you combine the upfront selection and the automated curation and control, you need to have good workflows.”
The enterprise also demands a series of decisions and technology solutions that may require retailers to rethink their approach to omnichannel, says Michael Stefanakos, VP at “lean retail” analytics firm FieldStack, which also works with retailers to develop marketplaces.
Retailers must choose wisely: Their sellers’ customer service and quality of merchandise will reflect back on them. As Amazon’s marketplace has grown, for example, the number of complaints of counterfeit goods and poor customer service has also risen. Even Etsy, known as place to go for well-made, home-made, high-quality goods, is grappling with complaints over fakes and mass-produced goods of inferior quality.
But there are some goods that you should have on hand just to keep your best customers around, Stefanakos says.
“The single most valuable asset that a retailer has is people walking through the door,” he told Retail Dive. “There may be an item that you don’t want to sell and that you don’t even like selling, but if you don’t sell it, you’ll lose one of your most valuable customers. You’ve got to find a way, and sometimes it’s selling that thing that you don’t want to sell because that helps you make that sale of the other things that person wants.”
Analytics helps retailers identify key customers and key goods. And marketplaces (and pop-ups, or stores-within-stores) are ways to increase your offerings while leaving fulfillment, logistics and ownership of some goods to third-party vendors, Stefanakos says.