Online startup Merchandize allows suppliers to share standardised digital product information with retailers – where before they would often fail to populate the key product data required for operating an online store such as photos, descriptions, weight, dimensions, and tags.
Over his years of working with suppliers in the party and gift industries, Founder of Spyre Digital Matt Marchetta identified a problem which he believes is a result of a slowly developing eCommerce era. And that problem is digital product data. He explains that manufacturers and suppliers are not organising their digital product assets for easy distribution to retailers.
“Often the product images are of amateur quality, descriptions are not present, and codes are not universal,” says Marchetta.
“This results in retailers taking their own photos, and ignoring product descriptions where search engine rank opportunities are most present or entering their own information manually – thereby creating hundreds of amateur variations of the same product online. Not to mention a lack of shipping data for each product – such as weight and dimensions – which makes it possible to determine accurate freight charges.”
This also discourages smaller retail businesses from an establishing an eCommerce store, due to a lack of resources. However, the loss in sales opportunities is felt right back through to the supplier.
Merchandize eliminates this problem by enabling a relationship between retailers and suppliers for the sole purpose of cataloguing and standardising product data.
“We work with the suppliers to create a database of standardised product data, then retailers can subscribe to this database and export the information that they require,” says Marchetta.
Merchandize also goes one step further by allowing retailers to create a web storefront using their own domain name – which is integrated with the Merchandize database and feeds product data directly to the retailer’s website.
“The great thing about this feature is that the retailer will receive notifications when products are updated, or new products become available, and can nominate when they wish to add them,” says Marchetta.
The objective is to encourage more retailers to enter the online space by making the process of populating their websites significantly easier. In turn, small businesses have an opportunity to compete in the online marketplace and expand their market reach.
The development phase
It all began when with a marker, a whiteboard and Marchetta. He began brainstorming the functional requirements of the system; and jotted down opportunities to exploit and obstacles to overcome. He took time to mentally visualise the administration interface, and began sketching concepts.
The next step was building the system, which was much easier than he’d expected.
“I installed the shopping cart on a staging environment and briefed my developer on modifications to allow for database subscribers, and product history. The purpose of the product history is to allow retailers to choose when they want to update a product,” says Marchetta.
So far it has cost $2,100 creating the system, though there will be more spend in the next four weeks before its official launch.
But given how heavily Marchetta has been involved in the tech space for the duration of his entire career, with Merchandize being his fourth startup, he was able to approach the development with a mature understanding of processes involved when building and establishing a startup.
He admits, however, that while he is experienced when it comes to starting up a business, Merchandize is the first unique solution he’s developed and is very excited about the potential.
Market and business model
Merchandize will initially be launched within Australia’s party industry, and the target market is specifically party retailers who are not yet selling online. But it will be rolled out to existing website owners at a later date.
“The reason for this choice of industry is that party suppliers are existing clients of Spyre Digital, making it possible to develop the database and access their retailers,” says Marchetta.
“I’m aiming to secure the majority of this market by providing 4 different subscription plans, appealing to small and medium sized businesses.”
The smallest subscription package will be marketed at micro and small businesses who only want a login to the administration area so they can export product data onto spreadsheets as they please.
The three incremental plans above that relate to different web storefront packages, depending on the scale of the website requirements, and the functionality required. Marchetta will also be offering general website development services to subscribers, including customisation and online marketing.
Marchetta is currently working on a marketing strategy – specifically, a plan to have suppliers drive the launch of Merchandize. He explains that this is a strategic decision based around the fact that retailers have confidence in their suppliers, and their recommendation will give Merchandize the credibility it needs to gain traction after launch.
“I’ll be promoting the benefits of the system, specifically how easy it is to use and how much time is saved uploading products. I’ve performed the necessary market research to understand that retailers can relate to these nuisances,” says Marchetta.
The biggest and only challenge for Marchetta has been juggling the demands of his existing business with the time required to build and launch Merchandize.
“Time management has always been a weakness of mine, however I’ve become accustomed to 3:00am mornings being a part of working hours,” he says.
An important lesson he learned from the Merchandize startup journey is to avoid having an emotional connection to ideas.
“Logic needs to be applied constantly, and if something isn’t working, it needs to be tied off immediately so that resources are not wasted where they are needed,” says Marchetta.
In 12 months time he plans to expand into a new industry – with Gifts and Homewares on his radar due to recently becoming acquainted with the various associations and suppliers.
The website is currently in ‘coming soon’ mode and will be launched next month. Keep an eye out for it: www.merchandize.com.au.