This week we got to talk with Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder of Mirakl. Mirakl enables retailers and brands to launch their own online marketplace. They help companies quickly offer more products, learn more from customers about what they want, and consequently sell more. The Mirakl Marketplace Platform automates the hard things about marketplace management on an API-based solution, trusted by over 100 customers.
Avenue Code: Adrien, thanks so much for speaking with us today! With your work at Mirakl, it’s clear that you have a pulse on trends within commerce. What are some of the biggest changes you have observed in consumer behavior in the last 5 years?
Adrien Nussenbaum: I think that beyond all the transformation technology has brought to retail - virtual assistants, personalization, etc. - any answer to this question would be totally incomplete if it didn’t start by recognizing the fact that Amazon has completely redefined retail. Despite some great innovation we’ve seen from individual retailers, the reality is that Amazon alone took 53% of all online sales in the US last year. They have massive market share, and to put it simply, they’ve become the source of all truth for shopping. If you’re looking for something, you know you can find it at Amazon, and you know you’ll get fast delivery.
All of this is really possible because of the marketplace of 3rd party sellers Amazon has built, all of whom can fulfill orders and supply catalogs. The key change here is to a model where instead of driving, walking into a mall, and finding interesting products, the consumer is going to find their purchase via a distribution system online.
Avenue Code: You started Mirakl just over five years ago. Can you tell us about how it fits into the new model, and what gaps you hoped to fill?
Adrien Nussenbaum: Sure! When we started Mirakl, we were keenly aware of the risk for retailers of falling short. There are so many critical elements nowadays to capture and maintain consumer interest. If you don’t have the right selection online, an extensive selection, consumers who prepare for their shopping experience online and don’t see what they’re looking for will not take the steps to show up physically. They lose interest with the brand. We realized that the kind of situations in which retailers are missing sales and falling short of converting visitors is largely due to a shortage of product selection and complementary products.
The flip side is that this is also a huge opportunity for retailers. If you can craft a product selection and a product universe that satisfies consumers, you can go leaps and bounds further. At the end of the day, this is accessible to retailers via a marketplace strategy. The creation of Mirakl was driven by the fact that in some previous work with a retailer on the edge of bankruptcy, we had been able to save them through the implementation of a marketplace strategy. We knew that by creating a platform that enables exposure to additional business, we could enable other retailers to take advantage of the same opportunities.
Adrien presenting on a marketplace solution for retailers.
Avenue Code: What’s the biggest obstacle you face at Mirakl?
Adrien Nussenbaum: Whenever you sell real innovation, whether it’s a technology that redefines the world, as for instance, electric cars, or whether it’s a technology that drives new ways of doing business, such as what Mirakl does, the biggest obstacle to overcome is always fear.
At the end of the day, you sell to human beings who have a job and don’t want to lose it. So when you’re selling disruption, it’s a lot tougher than selling technology that simply modernizes an existing profit center. The fear on our part is that people will be reluctant to take the risk. Even 5 years into our journey as a company, a huge part of what we do every single week is look for new people to evangelize, to reassure, and to educate on the larger trend of what’s going on in their industry.
But the good news is that this can be overcome. We face our clients’ fears head on by doing our homework, and putting their needs in parallel with our own, and mostly by showing with concrete results the value we bring to the table. We have very immersive workthroughs that we deliver to our prospects that can help them project and sell. Obviously the peer referencing helps a lot too.
Avenue Code: What is the key to success in today’s retail environment?
Adrien Nussenbaum: It’s realizing that retail has fundamentally changed. Consumers used to come to you, and now you need to be where they are, and you need to be appealing to them. The power has shifted to the consumer, which changes everything. I look at it from the point of view of what marketplaces bring. Marketplaces are the only economy where it is viable to bring the breadth of products, the pricing, the service level, and the responsiveness that consumers expect.
Of course, there are more implications. But the most important takeaway for me is that if you don’t have a very unique value proposition, it’s incredibly difficult to succeed in a commoditized industry. This applies to houseware, sporting goods, electronics...no matter what sector you’re in.
Avenue Code: You just announced your new marketplace platform for services earlier this year. What excites you about the new step? How will it change the way we do business?
Adrian Nussenbaum: This new offering really falls directly into the vision we have for how to make retailers more relevant. More and more, customers don’t necessarily want to shop for products - they want to shop for solutions. It can be anything. One hour delivery, the overall experience, etc. So having a platform for services makes sense because that’s a fairly critical component of offering comprehensive solutions for consumers. For instance, let’s say you’re in the market for a camera. This a totally commoditized market - you can easily shop around and research and find the best camera at the best pricepoint. But now imagine there’s a retailer who can offer you bundled services - you get your camera, but you also get access to a cloud-based photo printing service, photography lessons, and an overview tutorial. Suddenly, it makes a lot more sense to buy from that retailer than from another.
Avenue Code: Fascinating stuff, Adrien. It’s clear that Mirakl is on the front lines of making innovation a reality for many retailers. We’ll look forward to seeing more from you folks soon as the products and services categories are brought together as full solutions!