The Interview: Superdrug's E-Commerce Director on the launch of its new marketplace
Superdrug has launched its new marketplace platform, bringing a range of "undiscovered, innovative and affordable" products to UK consumers.
The launch signals the continuation of Superdrug's omni-channel retail strategy, allowing customers to buy products from marketplace brands that will have never been seen on Superdrug shelves.
In this interview with TheIndustry.beauty, Matt Walburn, Superdrug's Marketing & E-Commerce Director, speaks about the new marketplace, why it's been created, how it works for both customers and sellers, and how it aligns with Superdrug's commitment to value and accessibility.
Why has the Superdrug Marketplace been created?
We have always been very impressed with the number of website visits we get. The Superdrug website has seen up to three or four million visits a week at our busiest times. We became increasingly aware that there is a value in this footfall. So, we started to think about how we could leverage it.
We also wanted to expand our range. As a business, we are always looking to move into new areas and trial new products. We soon realised that we could create a hub to showcase products that other businesses sell.
How long has the marketplace been in progress for?
We first suggested the initial concept to AS Watson (Superdrug's owner) around a year ago. So, the project has moved rapidly and the platform is something we're very proud of. We made the decision to create a platform that will delight our customers but there are certainly plans to develop and grow it further.
Did the pandemic and subsequent rise in online shopping inspire the idea at all?
I think we would've done this even if the pandemic hadn't happened. However, the pandemic has certainly meant that over the last couple of years the business has been particularly online focused. So, we've been looking more at what others are doing. We knew that there are businesses out there doing these marketplace setups. So, I think that it's fair to say they inspired us to some degree.
How will the marketplace work from a customer perspective?
Like usual, our customers can go onto Superdrug.com and search for product categories. The difference now is that the search will suggest both our own stock and marketplace products. Items from the marketplace will be clearly labelled though, as we think it's important to make our customers aware that they're entering a different scenario. The advantage of putting our own stock and marketplace products together is that it offers more choice and a more seamless experience with everything in one place.
How will the marketplace benefit customers?
Superdrug can quickly add sellers and their products to the platform. As a result, our online offering has significantly increased and will continue to do so. We expect new product categories to emerge too, whether that's potentially fashion, accessories, home, lifestyle or fitness. So, there's more choice for consumers, which is a great benefit.
The marketplace also allows us to respond more quickly to consumer trends. This means that we can add a new category or range if something suddenly comes to light, as things often do. For example, this could include homegrown, female-founded, sustainable or inclusive new brands.
How will the marketplace work from a sellers perspective?
We are also very conscious that from a seller's perspective, the marketplace needs to be top drawer. That is why we've worked with Saas marketplace platform Mirakl, which is an industry leader.
Once a seller has been in contact with us and we've discussed their range, there are various ways that they can add themselves to the system. From our perspective, we have a number of exercises to ensure that our customers are getting what they need from a seller. We have a duty of care in terms of information and legalities.
Sellers and brands get a dashboard and are able to be in control of their products and what they put on the marketplace. We're thinking that a new seller can come on board in 14 days or less.
How will the marketplace benefit sellers?
As I mentioned before, Superdrug's website has seen up to three or four million visits a week at our busiest times - this is a massive market for sellers to now have access to! By offering them the chance to join Superdrug Marketplace, we hope this attachment to our brand will be highly beneficial for them.
In addition, the Superdrug website allows us to see what shoppers are interested in. In the past, we've been able to look at popular brands/products that are only available online and add them into our stores. Similar to this, the marketplace acts as an initial entry for brands and if they perform well, there could an opportunity for them to be brought into our stores in the future.
Can you tell me about the products listed on Superdrug Marketplace?
We've been deliberately broad in the brands and product categories on the platform. Obviously, we want to stock items that we believe our customers will be interested in. However, we haven't been too rigid in trying to stick within certain parameters. We do have a focus on beauty and there are some great health products too. So, we are covering the areas that we're more traditionally known for, as well as other areas like wellness, fitness, gift wrap and accessories.
It's not been difficult to find sellers; they've come to us. We've stuck with UK-based sellers to begin with, but plan to introduce European sellers eventually too. It's exciting to imagine the vast range of international products that we could source for UK consumers, so this is something we'd like to develop very quickly.
Why is it important to feature a wide range of brands?
The marketplace allows Superdrug to support lots of different brands. For example, supporting start-ups is not always easy when you're a retailer of our size because of the commitment you need on stock. However, the marketplace platform now provides us with the opportunity to better support brands like this. This is something that we believe is important in the industry.
How will the marketplace align with Superdrug's commitment to value and accessibility?
Value is incredibly important to Superdrug. We're always interested in how we can offer choice to our customers and deliver value to them. The platform will dramatically increase our range online at Superdrug, broadening and strengthening our accessible beauty and health offering for our customers.
There will also be a competitive nature to the platform. We are working with some big sellers, who have big catalogues that could crossover with other sellers. This means that customers could access a mix of offers for the same products, which is common across other marketplace platforms. So, we've been very interested in this element of competition between sellers in terms of offering price, delivery and other value commitments to consumers.
How will the marketplace boost Superdrug's omni-channel retail strategy?
The Superdrug Marketplace is the exciting next step in our digital transformation programme. It will allow us to promote diversity by supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses within the industry, but also increase our range on Superdrug.com.
The digitalisation of retail has allowed retailers to assume a different role. It's no longer just about physically holding stock and getting that to a customer, it's also about leading customers to products - whether you purchase those as a retailer or create a platform for them. Marketplaces are not a new thing, but we felt it was important for us to get on that train.