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Retailer Web Services: Leveling the Playing Field in Retail

Published by Brian Jackson in CIOReview | March 2017

Retailer Web Services (RWS), in many ways, is a company that deals with expectations. Their clientele consists of small businesses which consumers now expect to deliver an online shopping experience just as convenient and featureful as big box brands like WalMart and Amazon. In turn, RWS is expected to deliver these retailers a solution which meets that incredibly high standard; they have to provide enterprise-level functionality that's accessible to small, non-enterprise level businesses. It needs to be easy to use, affordable, and work without the support of sophisticated backend systems-their solution has to practically be a back-end system in and of itself! From a business and IT standpoint, this is an incredible challenge.

But RWS has an answer to these seemingly impossible expectations - their WebFronts® ecommerce solution. WebFronts turns the long and complicated process of creating a product rich, ecommerce website into quick and simple packages with feature sets and levels of service that start as low as $99/month. Even Webfront's most basic level is fully ecommerce capable from day one with no extra fees required, and it's easy to use for businesses that don't have dedicated IT departments. RWS makes sure the businesses they work with have all the help they need, including a dedicated account manager, who will not only train them to use the software but also call at regular periods to offer advice on how to use it more effectively.

The only question left is how RWS is able to meet such a demanding status quo. What does WebFronts do that makes it such a powerful tool for small businesses who want to match, and even win against their iconic competitors?

Powering Ecommerce: How Web fronts Does It All

Consumers expect a lot from retailers' websites today. It's not just one thing-it's everything that has to go right during their online experience to ultimately win their business. RWS excels by deeply understanding this dynamic and providing a solution to their retailer customers that doesn't require them to fill in any gaps between functionality. It does it all.

For example, product data is important. When a customer goes to shop online, they expect to be able to see pictures, dimensions, and feature lists for a variety of products made by different manufacturers all on one retailer's website. Without comprehensive product data, even the most beautifully designed ecommerce website cannot succeed. So RWS doesn't rely on retailers to procure and enter product data themselves- that's all included in the WebFronts product.

RWS manages a large dedicated team of deeply experienced data developers and data professionals that maintain the industry's largest centralized database of product information. Their expansive normalized catalog gathers data from over 1,100 unique brands and 2.5 million skus. Small businesses using WebFronts can add the high-resolution photos, descriptions, dimensions and manuals for thousands of products they sell to their online store with a few simple clicks.

So now a retailer has a nice looking website, complete with hundreds or thousands of products on it, and they can even accept online orders. But still, the retailer needs to set and show prices before a conswner could ever buy anything online. WebFronts makes that easy too.

RWS maintains a record of guide prices-pricing that is published by manufacturers to guide the pricing of their products-like manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), minimum advertised price (MAP) or unilateral minimwn resale price (UMRP). This volatile pricing information is kept up to date and is available for retailers to use in automated formulas which can price hundreds or thousands of skus on their online store in seconds (and keep them updated as guide prices change). And if they aren't interested in using guide prices, they can always view and use an additional database of competors' online prices that RWS also gathers and updates for them. Matching or responding to the pricing strategy of their largest big box competitor is made trivially easy and completely automated.

Most ecommerce solutions require an integration with a business's sophisticated back-end system in order to "dump in" the results of their careful merchandising and pricing decisions made elsewhere. Many small businesses simply don't have any kind of back-end system of this nature to start with. What's so impressive about RWS is they have built a solution that doesn't need any integration to be successful. The Web Fronts App, which acts as a content management system for each retailer's WebFront, allows them to quickly, easily and powerfully express their sophisticated intentions absent any fancy integrations that just aren't available to them. Through the App, users can set formulas to control the appearance of product and prices displayed to consumers-all evaluated continuously and updated as market conditions change. It supports permissions so each staff member can be assigned different levels of access. Most importantly, the App serves as a stand-alone control center anyone with the skill set necessary to browse the internet and send email can learn to use easily.

The Human Component ofWebFronts

"Our company goes the extra mile to deliver the human touch. We have this great technology and that's wonderful, but it doesn't matter how good the technology is if the retailer can't use it," explains James Kane, Jr., CEO of Retailer Web Services. Given their target demographic consists of independently owned appliance, furniture and mattress retailers, many of RWS' customers are unfamiliar with powerful ecommerce solutions like WebFronts. To experience the full value WebFronts can deliver, they may have to do new activities or change the way they think about certain aspects of their business, and that means a higher level of engagement is needed to support RWS' customers along the way.

When a retailer works with RWS, they receive one-on-one attention through every step. Each business owner works individually with an RWS graphic designer who listens to their vision and translates it into a unique design they love. After design, an on-boarding specialist trains them how to use the WebFronts App to control their site, helps them set strategies to populate and price it, and then navigates them through the go-live process. And once their new site is live, the individualized support continues with a Dedicated Account Manager that acts as a single-point of contact, answering questions and offering guidance. Ultimately, those who choose to invest in WebFronts are not only getting a dynamic ecommerce solution but also an ongoing service which aims to help them achieve their business objectives.

WebFronts doesn't stop with just excellent, easy ecommerce, their Level 4 package makes it easy to run omni-channel promotions and engage in powerful marketing automation too. RWS makes all the content for the retailer, launching landing pages, adding banners, posting to their Facebook page and automatically sending out remarketing emails about the right promotions to the right people at the right times. Even at this highest level, RWS makes sure everything possible is automated for their clients and aims to deliver the absolute most value for the time, money and effort their customers commit to the product.

Maintaining a Standard of Top Level Service

It's hard to deny the work ethic of Retailer Web Services. One person who'd vouch for them is Jeffrey Allaire of Bellingham Electric, whose company recently signed up for WebFronts® Review™, a reputation management solution that can be added on to any Web Front. It monitors the major review sites and aggregates all their reviews in a single convenient location within the WebFronts App. From there it's easy to respond directly, solicit new reviews, showcase glowing ones on their website and share them via social media too. For Bellingham Electric, the process of soliciting new reviews was easy; they just regularly upload their customers' email addresses into the App and WebFronts Review does all the rest. Right away they received several new 5 star reviews on sites like Yelp and Google, and they report they are on track to 10 times the total number of online reviews for their store this year.

If you ask RWS "What's next?" they will tell you that digital trends change too fast to give you a certain answer. Instead, they' re focused on maintaining their core values and principles of hard work, which is best seen in their relentless dedication to learning about those their products serve. "We spend intensive time and energy learning about our customers' customers, conducting the largest and most comprehensive end-consumer research about how people shop for appliances, furniture and matt.resses in the industry. Our research is published in numerous white papers and even two books," elaborates Jennie Gilbert, Chief Operating Officer, Retailer Web Services. RWS is releasing a new book in March entitled "RE:MARKET - New digital techniques independent retailers can use now to compete better, grow faster and work smarter". With products like WebFronts, there's no doubt RWS' work will be instrumental in the growth of small businesses in America.

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