After eight years with a multinational specialized in business applications, Paul Garcia joined Octopia as Global Head of Sales & Ecosystem. He explains why it is essential to capitalize on marketplaces, and emphasizes that on this track, technology is not the only key to success.

1/ In your view, what are the key factors for a successful Head of Sales?

Thanks to my past experience, I joined Octopia with the desire to strengthen our processes in keeping with the rigor of the sales cycle; enabling better communication with customers and ultimately serving the sales operated with them. Right now, this is helping me in the structuring of numerous processes, in particular sales forecasting and pipeline management. It’s vital for me to gain my customers’ trust, the keys to success are then attentiveness, trust and expertise. Our approach must always be relevant in order to help the customer to co-build their business and bring it value.

“My business mantra is customer first! It’s what drives all my decisions.”

2/ With the health crisis, new challenges have emerged for distributors and retail players. What are the lessons to be learned?

E-commerce has seen steady growth in the last 10 years and the COVID-19 crisis sped up this momentum. In this particular context, the marketplace model represents a real growth driver for e-commerce and is coming out on top. On average in 2020, marketplaces grew by +27%, which is twice as fast as in 2019, and they now represent 65% of e-commerce sales.

This change is accompanied by 2 significant trends:

  • For retailers or pure players, the marketplace is key. The opening of a marketplace is on the agenda for an increasing number of players who are looking to expand their offer and boost their e-commerce growth in the most buoyant sector. We are clearly seeing this at Octopia, with new players who call on us to discuss their marketplace project.
  • For consumers, demands have evolved with COVID. Modern end-consumers are moving towards a new purchasing comfort - they demand convenience. What is convenience? Practicality, comfort and fluidity on the purchasing path. In response, marketplaces must provide an unlimited offer in addition to a very smooth purchasing path, with flexible, high-quality delivery.

3/ So, your vision of e-commerce is the marketplace?

Absolutely! With the health crisis and in particular the closure of stores, the marketplace trend has accelerated at a dramatic pace. Why? Because consumers are now looking for a new form of comfort in their buying experience. They want to be able to find all the products they need, including various brands, on a single site and at the best price, but also delivered when they want (standard or express delivery), and where it suits them (home, pick-up points or in store).

To meet these new convenience challenges, e-retailers have to adapt. I firmly believe that if an e-retailer hasn’t switched to a marketplace within the next 3 to 5 years, they have little chance of survival. We shifted from physical retail to e-commerce 20 years ago. Now we’re seeing Act II: we’re moving from e-commerce to the marketplace. The real key for retailers is to offer the best customer experience by switching from a site where they sell their own products to a marketplace where they also sell products that are not their own.

4/ What are the challenges of moving towards a marketplace?

Building their own marketplace allows retailers to expand their range and offer an “unlimited” choice in line with the DNA of their site and the expectations of end customers. This represents an opportunity to become a leading player in their sector, by covering all the needs of consumers.

On the other hand, developing a successful marketplace raises 4 major challenges:

  • To make the offer ultra-available
  •  To offer high-quality products at the most competitive price
  • To optimize delivery while maintaining its quality and fluidity
  • To fluidify the purchasing path through an optimal marketplace operation

5/ What boosts the transformation towards these marketplaces?

I’d say that the market and in particular consumers themselves are inherently accelerating this change. In fact, the e-commerce market and more specifically the marketplace are growing at a faster pace than physical commerce.

Within this change, technology must be present everywhere to highlight all aspects. The marketplace requires an integral and modular solution from start to finish to provide an optimal convenience experience to end consumers. Time is running out and you can’t afford to fall behind if you want to stay in the race.

“Our customers can gain up to 3 years on their business plan”

6/ How does Octopia support its customers in this transformation?

When you launch a marketplace, the difficulty is not necessarily due to technology. Of course, you need technology which is capable of coping with, let’s say, 8000 “add to cart” per second and more than 28 million unique visitors per month.

After that, the most complicated aspect is to onboard quality sellers to broaden the offer. It sometimes takes 4 or 5 months to integrate just one seller. A marketplace starts to become profitable at around 200 or 300 sellers, which means that reaching a “critical mass” is not easy. Our greatest asset is to provide our customers directly with a base of qualified sellers, which enables them to operate a really vast catalog of products. From Day 1 of the launch of their marketplace, our customers can make their first sales. In other words, they sometimes gain up to 3 years on their business plan.

7/ You thus provide total support, whether technical, commercial or operational.

Exactly. At the beginning, our Consulting team, which comes from the marketplace field, helps our customers to define the right processes (for the management of a damaged parcel, for example). We assist them throughout their project, defining marketplace objectives, following the various implementation steps, connecting API with the existing infrastructure, carrying out tests and validations, or transferring expertise and training the teams who will operate the marketplace, and so on. Once past the go-live stage, our Customer Success team ensures things run smoothly and helps our customers to reach their growth targets.

Beyond the technology, our solution can be modified according to the operational requirements of the customer. Lastly, we also guide our customers with the logistics aspect, in France and abroad. We operate the logistics on their behalf, or provide them with a turnkey solution enabling them to execute logistics themselves for their customers. In short, support from A to Z, for customers of all sizes and from all sectors, in B2B or B2C.