An Interview With Josh Walter, Co-Founder And CEO Of BrandJump

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BrandJump is an ecommerce sales and marketing company with a focused expertise in the home furnishings space. Below is our recent interview with Josh Walter, Co-Founder and CEO of BrandJump:

Q: Josh, can you tell us something more about the company and what you do?

A: We create customized, comprehensive online channel strategies for brands — encompassing merchandising, content and marketing — to optimize each brand’s online presence across multiple internet retail channels. This not only maximizes revenue, but also builds brand awareness.

Q: What are the benefits of centralizing an ecommerce channel management strategy?

A: The ecommerce channel in home furnishings is made up of multiple internet retailers that differ greatly from one another. From Wayfair, to Amazon, to Home Depot, to One Kings Lane – all are important – but each has distinctive strengths and business drivers.

It’s critical to have a centralized ecommerce strategy managed by a team of people that have a deep understanding of the internet retailers they are working with. This team needs to know how to drive the businesses of each ecommerce partner, but also must recognize how each fits into the overall channel strategy with a given brand. Their role is to maximize the business, but at the same time minimize overlapping strategies.

In order to effectively build a channel strategy across multiple internet retailers, a bird’s eye view is required, as opposed to being fragmentally managed. A strong, clear channel strategy across merchandising, content and marketing will not only result in optimum sales results, but also content and pricing consistency, and brand control.

BrandJump takes a unique approach by becoming the ecommerce arm on behalf of our clients. We have a team of experts that come from the ecommerce space that perform each of the key functions required to grow online – all of whom have home furnishings experience. Because we work with multiple brands, we have a profound understanding of what works and doesn’t work across various retailers, allowing us to well-position our clients with retailers that are the best fit for their brands.

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Q: What are the current and future trends in ecommerce?

A: As purchasing rapidly continues to shift online, the large internet retailers are becoming larger and channel consolidation is becoming more pervasive. Customer experience is king, and in order to deliver what is expected of the consumer, investment needs are increasing, requiring much deeper pockets (and better logistics and technology).

Retailers are now brands themselves (think Wayfair, Restoration Hardware, Williams Sonoma), and are in many cases white labeling their supplier brands because their belief is that their own brand recognition and loyalty will drive traffic as opposed to the brands of their suppliers (and they are often correct). They are leveraging the diversity of their suppliers brands and products to create cohesive all-home experiences.

Price points seem to be trending down, but there is certainly a place for premium product to be sold online. Regardless, we’re seeing sharp lead times become table stakes as opposed to a competitive advantage.

Less retailers are stocking product (and instead allowing suppliers to drop ship), and as a result, they are enforcing very strict operational demands on their suppliers in order to deliver a best-in-class customer experience.

It’s critical not only for a brand to invest in their infrastructures to support these demands, but also to have a team that can navigate the growing complexity of the space.

Q: What are the challenges home furnishings manufacturers face in ecommerce?

A: Manufacturers have the difficult challenge of continuing to level up their support of their ecommerce businesses, while at the same time ensuring their brands thrive in other channels of distribution (brick & mortar, contract). Fortunately, it’s not a zero sum game, they just need to know how each channel’s strategy impacts one another. In fact, if managed properly, each channel can actually complement one another.

That said, from an ecommerce standpoint, if a brand does want their online strategy to positively impact other channels, its critical (though challenging) to keep a finger on the pulse of the rapid change that’s occurring. The landscape of retailers is dynamic and the support each requires is increasing.

Brands should be on the lookout for new retailers entering the space to maintain healthy diversification, and should be constantly striving to educate themselves in best practices across logistics, merchandising, content and marketing strategies.

The concept of white labeling is also one where brands are challenged. On one hand, it has become a significant volume play, but on the other hand, brands have concerns about the long game for their brands and their traditional business models. Our belief is that it’s not an all or nothing play. Simply put – it’s important to know where brand names matter, and where they don’t, and for brands to be open to the idea that on some sites, customers are seeking out brands, and on some sites, they are not.

To be open to change is of the utmost importance to a brand’s success online.

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Q: What advice do you have for early entrepreneurs who hope to scale up as quickly and successfully as you have?

A: Create a vision and invest early and heavily in best in class talent.

It’s imperative to have a good mix of visionaries and executors, and most important, to have a team of people with high energy and integrity (and who want to have fun!)

Build a culture where everyone wants to be part of the vision, and ensure that everyone has a voice so they are invested in the company’s success.

Infuse technologies into the business that add value, both internally and externally.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: At its core, we are a people business, as opposed to a technology app/platform.

Our channel management solution is what makes our business model most unique – we have a merchandising, a content and a marketing team – each person comes from the ecommerce space. We’re not a jack of all trades per se, but we’ve built out a comprehensive suite of services that can fully equip a brand in the home furnishings space to maximize their online business.

We want to continue to lean in further to this model – continue to invest and build out our suite of services as the landscape changes. What you’ll see from us is an increased investment in technology to support the “people side” of our business. We will remain a people business, but there are areas that we can become more efficient internally, and concurrently add incremental value externally to our clients and ecommerce partners. We’ve recently integrated Pricing Software into our suite of services, and over the last two years built out a client portal which gives brands more visibility into the marketing activities of their ecommerce partners. More to come on this front and we can’t wait to share!