When it comes to the explosive growth of e-commerce, Frank Poore, founder, president and chief executive officer of CommerceHub, saw the writing on the wall — back in the mid-Nineties.

Poore founded CommerceHub in 1997 after seeing retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. struggling with online assortments. They were offering a handful of video games for sale on their web sites. It was just what they had in their inventories. Poore said he could help them list 35,000 games. So was born the “endless aisle.”

Frank Poore  Scott Duclos

Today, CommerceHub continues to host integrated solutions that include drop ship fulfillment as well as product content management. But the current retail market is more complex, and requires more nuanced solutions — and deployment of technology with a clear strategy. Poore told WWD that retailers and brands need to respond because “consumer expectations have changed, the psychology has changed.”

What’s notable is that the technology to meet these demands [has] been around for some time. When Poore founded the company, he would gather pictures and product descriptions and send them to retailers digitally. “I told them I’ll fulfill these orders and I can connect to them electronically so that they could in essence carry this virtual inventory without any capital risk, and with the ability to satisfy their customers, and make it look like it actually came from them,” he said, adding that “everyone loved the idea and we got a lot of deals.”

But it “was a complete and utter disaster,” he said. “Everyone had a different EDI format.”

“These brands were getting calls from their customers and saying: ‘Where’s my order?'” Poore said. “At that time, they were having trouble figuring out where orders were in their own warehouses let alone true drop ship suppliers that they might have been leveraging. And so we developed this platform that would allow a retailer to connect one time to this platform. And regardless of their system of the suppliers or the size or scale of the suppliers, we could get them completely, 100 percent compliant and make them in essence appear to be virtual warehouses of those retailers.”

That included the same level of customer service and fulfillment performance as well as the “same brand identity as if they actually bought the goods, stocked them and shipped them out of their own warehouse — and it rocked.”

Today’s challenges include an overretailed market, and online giant Amazon. “I think there are certain kinds of companies such as Home Depot that [have] a unique product set, a nice unique business model that keeps them sort of protected,” he said. “You can’t outrun and out-beat Amazon, but retailers do have stores, and that’s an advantage. Stores are pickup points, they are shipment points. And stores are showrooms.”

Poore said that for retailers, CommerceHub can offer “the ability for you to connect to any source of supply.”

“We can connect you to a manufacturer, a brand, a distributor, a third-party logistics company, anywhere inventory may exist,” he explained. “We help retailers offer those products, and provide the product imagery and all of the descriptions as well as the selling data and content that they need to get up on their web site so consumers can buy it. We make that available through one of our capabilities, and then we integrate and synchronize inventory systems, shipment systems and order management systems between these parties.”

Poore also said the company integrates carriers and delivery agents. And that integration with suppliers, retailers and carriers are all tied “together into one central hub. We normalize the data, and we provide business logic on top of it, and then we provide applications to each party to manage their aspect of the responsibility.”

For More Business News From WWD, See:

Amazon, Wal-Mart and Apple Top List of Biggest E-commerce Retailers

Consumer Preferences Reshaping Retail Landscape

As IoT Grows, AT&T Sees Broad Deployment of Connected Devices and Products

How Malls Can Satiate Consumer Desires for Experiences

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