Launching The Verticale’s Mission-Driven B2C Marketplace in 2.5 Months, Behind the Scenes

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The Verticale is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) community and marketplace that curates digitally native vertical brands and product offerings for a premium, ethics-conscious audience. They aim to help their audience discover values-based brands that “are changing the industry and standing up for what matters most.” 

In November 2020, they launched The Verticale Marketplace so their community could shop these brands’ products as well.

Convictional is proud to be the backbone infrastructure partner for their B2C marketplace. As a marketplace platform, we enabled them to…

  • Trade seamlessly with as many brands and SKUs as they can curate
  • Implement a dropship fulfillment model that removes the need for in-house inventory
  • Focus on branding, customer acquisition, and ethical sourcing, instead of order fulfillment and vendor management

In this article, we document the past 2 months of our partnership from…

  • How our team onboarded them on to our platform within 2 weeks
  • How they onboarded 50 vendors in 8 weeks
  • What our team learned in the process of working with The Verticale

How Convictional onboarded The Verticale

Verticale co-founders, Jaclyn Grauman & Michelle Silverstein, approached us in late summer 2020 with their vision of a values-based marketplace built on Shopify. Over the next 8 weeks, we worked with them to launch The Verticale Marketplace on November 11th, 2020.

After the deal was signed, Michelle and Jaclyn started working with our Customer Success Managers Kyle Tymoszewicz and Becca Crandall to get the brands and their inventory up for launch.

Our team’s goal is to have our retail partners fully trained and set up with Convictional as the backbone of their ecommerce environment, within 1-2 calls. 

In the first introductory onboarding call, we dug into where they were in their journey and discussed any urgent issues on the business side. From there, we walked The Verticale through how they could fully utilize the full power of Convictional. We showed them how they could begin to onboard vendors and translate their sourcing and recruitment funnel into products becoming available for purchase on the platform.

We then reconnected the following week to debrief how the first round of invitations went. We pushed products live into their ecommerce environment (in this case, they were on Shopify) and walked them through the core user flows with live vendor data. This way, they could see what the onboarding process looked like from the vendors’ side.

Finally, we pointed them to the tools and documentation they needed to run their vendor onboarding process on their own and could troubleshoot any questions they received. Here’s some of the most frequently asked questions our customers get as they onboard their vendors:

Over the next 6 weeks, The Verticale team used that support documentation to get their vendors over the line and onboarded. About 2 days before launch day, we wrapped up all major remaining issues and questions around the tech and the product catalog, and watched the orders roll in.

What The Verticale’s vendor onboarding process looks like

Michelle and Jaclyn came with their own list of vendors. But what’s remarkable about the timeline is that they wanted both a seamless vendor and customer experience. Because of this, they made sure to have a technology partner before they signed vendor contracts. 

That restricted their initial timeline, but now, once a vendor agrees to work with a retailer, getting them on to Convictional is the easy part. The Verticale just sends the vendor an invite email from their dashboard. 

Before the retailer gets to that step however, each vendor has to be: 

  1. Discovered 
  2. Vetted to fit the buyer criteria 
  3. Contacted and convinced into working with the retailer 

After that, terms and the contract have to be negotiated and signed, and the assortment decided on.

One of our CS team members, Becca, was an ecommerce manager for The Helm -- another Convictional-powered B2C marketplace -- and she knows how time-consuming the vendor onboarding process can be. 

Referring to how Michelle and Jaclyn onboarded 50 brands in 2.5 months, Becca says, “That is a crazy fast timeline. The difficulty lies in the complexity of this process (a seller can drop off at any time in this process, and many do!), exacerbated by the fact that each step could be a different employee at the seller’s company. So the buyer may have to work with 4-5 different people to start selling on their site.” 

Resolving errors from custom SKU configurations 

Once the vendors started accepting their invites, our team had to accommodate the most complex Shopify product setups they have seen to date. Kyle says, “We had to adjust to entirely different paradigms of how SKUs were configured.”

For example, sustainable menswear brand Tact & Stone has a custom SKU setup that they used to create elegant product pages. However, this involves an array of duplicate SKUs. This caused multiple errors when our system synced their product. Kyle and Becca ended up working one-on-one with their CEO to get all of their products synced and live.

Solving the problem of inventory data integrity

Once the vendors were onboarded, The Verticale was keen to have all of their vendor’s catalogues available for sale right away. 

We hit a speed bump as Convictional’s software has layers of tests that validate the utility of a product’s data. Kyle recalls, “The problem was, our product validation was almost too good. It wasn’t just preventing actual order issues from happening. It was also flagging future order issues.” To get The Verticale’s marketplace over the starting line, we needed to get creative with our approach to product validation.

Vendors with highly customized or unique product pages often create these pages by either:

  1. Customizing how their ecommerce platform displays product information, or 
  2. Modifying data (like SKUs) so that new pages or types of collections can be displayed

We needed to accommodate a great diversity of SKU configurations without compromising on the quality of data validation. The key lay in enforcing our data quality standards -- unique SKUs and barcodes per variant -- but being flexible in how that data could be ingested into the system.

From our experience, barcodes were not the issue. Duplicate SKUs were.

In some cases, this meant providing guidance on how to generate meaningful SKUs. When a vendor intentionally held duplicate SKUs across variants, our team helped them sync the highest value styles from their collection for The Verticale.

We also ensured vendors populated key fields, like ‘Vendor’, ‘Option’, and had an HTML-based product description, so that The Verticale had what they needed to build their product pages.

What Convictional learned from our Verticale partnership

The main lesson our team learned is that vendor onboarding is similar to a sales pipeline. 20% of vendors fall off at any stage of onboarding. It’s the retailer’s job to adjust their recruitment, sourcing, and onboarding activities accordingly. 

In a similar vein, Kyle emphasizes that “how smoothly a marketplace launch goes depends on how much sales and marketing credibility the retailer holds with their vendors.” In other words, can the retailer offer the vendor an irresistible value proposition that they just can’t turn down?

For example, among several enticing benefits The Verticale offered to potential partners, were the opportunity to: 

  • Associate the potential partner’s brand with other missional brands
  • Take part in a new distribution channel with zero-to-no extra lift on their part
  • Move upmarket and access The Verticale’s highly engaged audience

Among the premium vendors we onboarded with The Verticale were established DTC brands like Tortuga (travel backpacks) and Knickey (organic cotton underwear). 

Kyle credits “[The Verticale’s] execution and commitment to learning the ins and outs of Convictional” as the main reason why we could have initial products from these brands go live within 2 weeks.

In fact, when our team dug into the data, we were floored to learn that some Verticale vendors received their first orders from the marketplace within 9 days of being in the system, and some in as little as 3 days.

Being one of the first vertical (no pun intended) marketplaces for DTC brands and the first aggregator of values-based brands, The Verticale is charting new territory in ecommerce. 

The Verticale’s team has been incredibly successful because they took the time to deeply understand the intricacies of how Convictional’s platform functioned, as it pertained to their vendors. Because of this, they could bake Convictional into their pitch to potential vendors and more importantly, deliver on their promise of a seamless, mutually beneficial, and profitable partnership. 

Powerful Infrastructure To Launch & Scale Your Digital Marketplace — Chat with us to learn more
Powerful Infrastructure
To Launch & Scale Your Digital Marketplace

Chat with us to learn more