"We were able to onboard 90 vendors to Convictional, enabling us to successfully sell their products on our marketplace. As ideas have come up for ways to enhance the platform, the Convictional team has been receptive and expeditious in execution."
— Emily Hughes, Head of Growth, The Helm.
Launching a marketplace from scratch is no easy feat. Tackling an ambitious vision is even more challenging.
With Convictional, The Helm proved that they can do both in record time.
- 8,000 active SKUs from third-party brands.
- 90 product vendors onboarded, 110 by end of year.
- 100% increase in conversion rate on Contextual Commerce vs. affiliate links.
- Idea to marketplace go-live in 4 months.
This is their story.
The Helm approached Convictional in the summer of 2018 with the idea of launching a multi-vendor marketplace for women-owned brands. Their goal was to create a platform for consumers to support and invest in women entrepreneurs.
The Helm's unique insight was that they could operate an ecommerce marketplace and bypass the costs and risks required to buy and warehouse inventory.
The Helm then learned that they could profitably curate products from relevant brands, onboard them and integrate with their inventory, and sell those products to a captive audience. Then, the brands would simply fulfil the orders. Consumers of the marketplace would be directly supporting The Helm's brand partners as a result, bringing the vision of the marketplace to reality.
And in a matter of months, The Helm has been able to achieve just that.
Lindsey Wood, CEO of The Helm, was quoted in Vogue stating, "We’ve created a content and commerce platform that tells the stories of game-changing female founders and offers consumers the ability to shop their products. We believe that every dollar you spend is investing in something, and our hope is that this is one more way people will invest in women.”
As Lindsey noted, The Helm didn't stop at commerce.
With a marketplace bustling with curated products, The Helm was able to insert those products into editorial content through beautifully embedded shopping modules.
Now, The Helm can share integrated products from their marketplace into their editorial stories, giving consumers a native way to engage with the content without being redirected to a third-party website through an affiliate link.
With this fully-integrated Contextual Commerce experience, The Helm owns the entire purchasing experience. From product discovery to checkout.
The results of Contextual Commerce are staggering.
The Helm is experiencing a 100% increase in conversion rate on their integrated shopping modules relative to traditional affiliate links.
Unlike traditional affiliate links where the publisher loses the reader and doesn't control the checkout experience, The Helm converts the reader to a customer on-site. Since they own the data as a result of the checkout being completed with them and not on a third-party site, The Helm can bring back the customer for repeat purchases when they add new products and promotions.
Achieving Marketplace Scale
The Helm's fast-growing marketplace spans products and brands across several categories including fashion, home, and health.
Marketplace dropship integrations have completely eliminated inventory risk and fulfillment costs from their business model. By pursuing an integrated approach to their marketplace, they can sell live inventory without forcing brands and vendors to manually upload spreadsheets.
The Helm can partner with a brand and onboard their inventory and product information to their Shopify store in a matter of minutes.
With Convictional, ecommerce retailers can iterate at the speed of a modern technology startup.
The Helm Shop is proof that vision becomes reality when you combine an innovative business model and a platform and team that's dedicated to making it happen.
In addition to their launch coverage in Vogue, The Helm has received praise from Forbes and other media outlets for their subsequent marketplace success.
To tell us more, we sat down with Emily Hughes, Head of Growth at The Helm.
Emily shares the mission behind The Helm, how the marketplace is a vehicle for achieving it, and why they chose Convictional as their Marketplace Platform to make it all happen.
Tell me about the founding story and the mission of The Helm.
The Helm is a lifestyle brand committed to elevating and investing in female entrepreneurs. We believe that reclaiming the relationship between women, money and power will result in positive, systemic change that tips the scales towards equality.
Money is power, and it should be working for—not against us.
You mentioned investing. Can you share more about The Helm’s venture fund?
We launched a year-long fund in 2017 that invested nearly $1.5 million in 11 incredible female-founded companies, funding the next generation of women-led innovation. Our portfolio spans industry verticals and business models, from Healthcare to Design to the Future of Work and Connected Hardware.
Why did you decide to expand the focus of the venture fund and launch an ecommerce platform?
The average consumer can’t invest a five- or six-figure check into a venture fund to support female-founded businesses, but they’re able to contribute by spending purposefully.
A 2014 study from Walmart found that 90% of female shoppers said they would go out of their way to buy a product marked as women-owned. The Helm becomes consumers' go-to source for investing in women, both through venture capital and retail spend. Our shop is accompanied by an editorial platform that contextualizes our commerce offering and tells the stories of female-founders, offering readers multiple ways to support them.
The Helm is a platform due to its investment fund, commerce marketplace, and content applications. What is the long-term vision for The Helm Shop?
Our goal long-term is to continue launching vehicles for investing in women. The shop will play a major role in that: it’s about empowering women to view and use shopping as a real means of smashing the patriarchy. We will expand verticals to new product categories and audiences (i.e., men, kids, pets, etc.), launch co-branded capsule collections with female designers, and create pop up shops around the country.
How do you determine brands (vendors) to partner with for your marketplace? What strategies have helped for sourcing vendors?
Our ecommerce team has sourced a varied group of women-built-and-led brands with a consistent, elevated aesthetic. We’ve sought to work with a diverse group of founders (in terms of age, ethnicity, etc.) whose products span category and price point. We’ll adjust and expand the assortment as we gain insight into our audience’s shopping habits.
Our earliest vendors largely came through personal relationships. As we started outreach, we began gaining inbound interest; there was a network of female founders discussing the opportunity in their eagerness to support each other. Since launch, we’ve seen that inbound interest skyrocket; there’s a lot of enthusiasm around this kind of marketplace.
If your brand is interested in being in the shop, please contact us here.
How does having a catalogue of products from multiple brands help The Helm Shop’s performance?
As our mission is to make it easy to invest in women, we needed to build a robust catalog of women-owned companies in our shop, giving consumers a variety of brands to shop from.
Why did you decide to search for a platform partner to help launch The Helm Shop?
As a young start up, we decided early on that we would rely on dropship partnerships to launch The Helm Shop and would need a Marketplace Platform to automate that process.
What would have been the implications of launching your ecommerce platform manually?
It honestly wouldn’t have been possible without Convictional!
We’re a small team with limited resources; there’s just no way for us to build out our own system or manage the process manually in house.
What additional needs did you have when selecting a platform to integrate with your vendors? (e.g. data requirements from vendors, onboarding requirements, ongoing operational requirements)
We wanted a platform that would take the work off of our vendors’ plates: a quick on-boarding process and simple interface were crucial. We needed a streamlined, automated way to sync our shop with theirs.
What criteria did you use when evaluating a marketplace platform partner?
We looked for a solution that was cost-effective, easy to implement on Shopify, and able to integrate with the majority of prominent ecommerce platforms.
What KPI(s)/metrics did you select for measuring success pre- and post-implementation?
We monitored the number of vendors onboarded, the time it takes to onboard them, vendor sentiment and retention, and the speed of customer support.
How did Convictional help you achieve or grow those metrics?
We were able to onboard 90 vendors to Convictional, enabling us to successfully sell their products on our marketplace. As ideas have come up for ways to enhance the platform, the Convictional team has been receptive and expeditious in execution.
Why did you select Convictional as your Marketplace Platform partner?
We loved that the founders of Convictional were Shopify alumni and had an in-depth knowledge of our ecommerce platform. We were confident that their platform would be the most efficient way to launch our ecommerce shop.
Describe how you have used Convictional’s platform.
We have used Convictional as the backbone of our ecommerce business, enabling us to sync with our vendors’ storefronts and process orders for customers.
What feature has been the most valuable so far?
Being able to access and download product photography has taken a huge amount of work off our vendor partners’ shoulders, which is incredible.
How many vendors are you currently working with? How many do you expect to onboard by the end of the year?
We are currently working with 90 vendors and will likely on-board another 10-20 by the end of the year.
How many SKUs do you have on your site so far?
How quickly can you now onboard a vendor once they've agreed to work with you?
If needed, we can get a vendor onboarded and live in 10 days, though we like to buffer about a month given the many moving pieces of our business. The Helm's platform shoulders the vast majority of the on-boarding work for vendors. Any vendor on Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce (or another platform that syncs with Convictional) will only need to dedicate 30 minutes to the process.
A big thank you to our friends at The Helm for participating in this case study.
To learn more about The Helm's marketplace, visit their website.