Retailers who use online marketplaces should be wary of weakening their brand and losing customer data, warned a panel of retailers speaking at Demandware’s Xchange conference in Miami this week.

John Hazen, SVP of direct to consumer at True Religion, specifically pointed to retailers to who set up their own marketplace.

“It’s an awful idea when retailers try to be marketplaces,” he said. “I was trying to buy a PC on and they had refurbished Dells from 2006 and all types of crap, they were trying to be a marketplace and they can’t.”

He added: “Sears were selling sex toys and bongs on their marketplace, that’s not what Sears is. You have to be very careful as a retailer selling on marketplaces.”

Simon Kerry, CIO at British shirt retailer, Charles Tyrwhitt, said while the retailer trades on Amazon’s marketplace, it tries to avoid them because it leads to a loss of customer data.

“We steer away because it’s a loss of customer data, which is so critical to our business – it’s too big an impact.”

Mary Halladay, international eCommerce business development and omnichannel leader at New Balance, also worries about losing data to marketplaces. She intends to launch a flagship Asia site on the Demandware platform to run in parallel with its Tmall eCommerce presence in order to own more customer data. 

Meanwhile, Jennifer McMClain, SVP eCommerce and marketing at US fashion retailer, The Limited, said marketplaces are not on the agenda for 2016. 

She said The Limited is a promotional business and with the marketplace fee it is not sustainable, while the loss of customer data concerns her as well.

“We’ll continue to look at it when it’s the right time, but we’re focused on a ‘must win’ strategy this year and that’s not necessarily a ‘must win’ for this year.”

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