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NRF 2016 interview: Netsuite on brands shifting to sell direct to consumers

Branded manufacturers are increasingly making efforts to connect with customers through eCommerce platforms. Netsuite's recent customer announcements including Lucky Brand jeans, Maclaren strollers and Billabong all demonstrate this trend. Traditionally a B2B endeavour, brands used to be content with wholesaling their goods to retailers, but as marketing efforts have ramped up, more and more customers are searching out the brand directly.

Speaking to Branden Jenkins, general manager of global retail for NetSuite, at the NRF Big Show in New York City this week, Essential eCommerce was told brands have woken up to the opportunity of selling their goods directly to consumers online over the last 3-5 years.

"Manufacturers have gone through cycles with trading partners and mass retailers, and have lost control of their brand," explained Jenkins, saying brands surrender control over pricing and margins when they sell their goods wholesale.

"But the consumer wants to interact with the brand, and wants to be part of it and the social aspects of that brand," he added.

"There's been a general shift where brand manufacturers have been able to go directly to consumers, before that the Nordstroms of the world had it pretty locked up and brands weren't going to disrupt their primary wholesale customer, but that's kind of eroded over time."

He said many brands now see eCommerce as a huge opportunity to work directly with customers. "Direct to consumer (D2C) is a channel they see revenue growth and moving products, but I think a lot comes down to how the brand is messaged," he said, noting how Netsuite has seen such an increase in brands launching eCommerce sites it has built a specific vertical team dedicated to supporting branded manufacturers.

Jenkins used Billabong as an example of a business which was 50% wholesale and 50% direct to consumer through owned stores. But after successful marketing campaigns though sponsoring surfers and extreme sporting competitions, it has built up the brand considerably, meaning more customers are going straight to the Billabong website to engage.

Before partnering with Netsuite, Billabong's website was non-transactional – a place customers could engage through content, including blogs and videos.

"Billabong has had a pretty good consumer site from a brand perspective, but they didn't have the platform in place to execute on eCommerce," explained Jenkins.

"Billabong came into this space as B2B and now they're moving into B2C channels which is the channel with the most room for innovation, because they live in this B2B world, but they're very focused on customer experience and getting the brand message across."

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