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Is retail all about the product?

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When people talk about the retail apocalypse — and boy do they — one underlying factor that comes up is the fact that U.S. retailers have simply overbuilt their brick-and-mortar empires.

Jules Pieri, CEO of retail platform The Grommet, doesn’t disagree. But Pieri, who is a founder of the ecommerce site that seeks out novel and innovative products, likes to talk about another self-inflicted wound that has retailers in their current predicament.

Retail buyers are playing it too safe.

OK, not Pieri’s exact words, but she does talk about the current lack of creativity when it comes to the products that legacy retailers choose to line their aisles with. I had a chance to talk with Pieri at IRCE, where she spoke about “citizen commerce” and the way The Grommet opens up sales channels to innovators and entrepreneurs who would otherwise have trouble finding a platform for selling their products.

In the video interview below, Pieri elaborates on her thoughts about the way retailer buyers operate today and how that could be better.

It’s an intriguing point, the idea that everything starts with the product. After all, we live in an era where there is a fixation on customer experience — and not necessarily a misplaced fixation, as Pieri alluded to. But without a product that is necessary or engaging or a better way to do something that’s been done before, there is little reason to provide a wonderful experience. A wonderful experience of what? Contemplating and researching something you’d never buy in a million years?

The Grommet takes an interesting approach to uncovering products that aren’t the same old story. It is a form of retail made for the 21st century in that it combines community, rich storytelling and commerce in one package. It does, in fact, provide a distinctive experience — and, of course, novel products.

Those are two elements that have fended off the so-called apocalypse for many of the retailers that are thriving amid the talk of gloom and doom.

Pieri had more to say about the current state of retail when I talked to her — and particularly more to say about how Amazon and its marketplace is not the answer for brands and manufacturers who are looking for a powerful sales channel. We’ll get to some of those thoughts in an upcoming Signifyd Ideas post.

Photo by iStock

Contact Mike Cassidy at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.


Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].