This week, I complete my first 90 days at Kaspien. I wanted to write you a quick update on the progress we’ve made in the company so far, as well as go through some of my plans going into fiscal year 2020.
Let’s get straight to it. Over the last 90 days, we’ve achieved the following:
1. Reenergized Mission Statement
Kaspien’s mission is “To be a Brand’s Ultimate Online Growth Partner.” At Kaspien, we’ve always been all about the brand. We empower brands to achieve their online growth goals on marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, among others, through our proprietary technology and data, tailored strategies, and mutually beneficial partnerships.
2. Kaspien as a Platform of Software as Services and New Partnership Models
Strategically, we have positioned the company as a platform of software and services – a Marketplace Growth platform. Kaspien is no longer “only” a third-party retailer. We offer a lot more than that. We offer a complete platform of software and services to help brands build their marketplace businesses. Our expertise started on Amazon and now has expanded to a lot more. The platform is available to brands through 3 partnership models:
- Software as a Service – For self-serve brands who want to run their own operation, but also want access to technology that is built and used by a top 5 Amazon third-party retailer.
- Agency as a Service – For brands who want to keep control of their inventory, Kaspien can serve as an extension of your eCommerce business unit, using our platform to operate your account on your behalf.
- Retail as a Service – For brands who are interested in wholesaling their inventory to a top third-party seller to sell on 3rd party marketplaces.
On the software as a service front, we have productized two of our software apps to enhance our software suite that already included our Brand Monitoring app, Perispect. We have been using these tools internally for several years to support brand’s growth, and we are now allowing brands to access these apps as SaaS.
- AdManager Beta: Our Amazon advertising management application that uses data science and intelligence to automatically optimize ads to achieve a specified objective.
- Channel Auditor: Our cost recovery application that identifies money that Amazon owes to you.
On the services front, we’ve streamlined our service offerings into different categories – Brand Protection, Digital Marketing, Creative Services, and Inventory Management – all of these using our proprietary technology. By doing so, we’ve made it easier to communicate and understand Kaspien’s offerings, removing barriers that could inhibit productive conversations and planning strategy.
We have a strong roadmap of product and service launches in 2020 as we continue to scale our platform, including launching new apps and new service integrations, which will provide our partners with more and better resources for their online strategy. I’m feeling good about a very comprehensive value proposition that we’ve put in place to help brands grow.
We’re also close to launching our first white labeled service on our platform. We will be partnering with various companies to continue building out our portfolio of offerings to ensure brands have the most robust solutions.
3. New Value Chain and Aligned Sales, Customer Success, and Marketing Operations a.k.a. Customer Experience
With a new strategy comes the need to realign our sales and marketing operations. We’ve created a completely new value chain for how we deliver our value proposition to our partners, designed to ensure that our partners always know all of the solutions available to them. We have a clean organization structure that helps us create and build lifetime relationships with our partners. This is the first step towards the underpinning of a truly excellent customer experience.
4. New Kaspien Website
We launched a completely new website to better showcase our offerings. We’ve amped our content publishing game through more organic content using different formats – video, audio, short form, long form, etc ., so that our partners are fully up to speed with industry and Kaspien updates.
5. Diversification Across Different Marketplaces
Although Amazon will and always be our primary expertise, we’ve strengthened our relationship with Walmart. Walmart, we believe, is a key player in the marketplace space. We would like to give our brands this additional growing distribution channel, while at the same time achieve Walmart distribution goals. Going into 2020, we will continue to build upon this relationship by launching additional services and support across our software platform for Walmart.
6. An Aligned Organization
Internally, a lot of change has happened over the past 90 days. Kaspien is now an aligned organization. In addition to clarifying our strategy and the delivery mechanism of our value proposition to our partners, we’ve:
- Created a new cross functional organization structure that separates out core business units from support business units and have established leadership and accountability in every unit. We’ve introduced a new “General Manager” role, single threaded leaders responsible for the P&L of a business. We introduced a new role called the “Head of Strategic Initiatives” to drive through all projects across the company.
- Introduced top down goals that cascade down to individual businesses, aligned bottom up operating plans, quarterly OKRs, an aligned KPI framework, and many other operational processes to keep us humming like a machine. All these borrowed from some of the top organizations of the world. Every individual has clear goals and accountability, and we’ve put together a recognition program to reward top performing individuals and culture carriers.
7. New Values a.k.a. Leadership Principles
We’ve introduced new leadership principles that embody who Kaspien is, and we use them as the foundation for how we operate. They are:
- Principle # 1 – We are Partner Obsessed
Our customers are our partners. Every decision we make is centered around building and investing in mutually beneficial partnerships.
- Principle # 2 – We are Insights Driven
Nothing matters more than insights. We use data to glean insights and to make strong business decisions. Insights are the ultimate decision maker.
- Principle # 3 – We are Simple in our Approach
We take the complicated and simplify it. Simplification keeps us aligned and focused.
- Principle # 4 – We Innovate on behalf of our Partners
We are ahead of the innovation curve at every stage. We are our partners’ incubator.
- Principle # 5 – We Deliver Results for our Partners
We set goals, we define targets and measures of success, we launch initiatives, we measure our progress, we mitigate risk, and we deliver results for our partners.
- Principle # 6 – We are Owners
We are entrepreneurial minded. We make things happen. We know what’s needed to build our business and we execute. We operate with agility and urgency.
From making decisions both internally and for our stakeholders to our rewards and recognition process, everything is based on our leadership principles.
8. New Operational Processes and Business Rigor
We’ve built upon the processes that Kaspien already had in place to operate the organization even more efficiently. Here are a few examples of new processes put in place over the last 90 days.
- Weekly, Monthly, and Quarterly Business Reviews for every business across the organization.
- Monthly and Quarterly Business Reviews with our key partners, and marketplaces – Amazon and Walmart.
- Twice-a-year strategic and operating planning, quarterly OKR planning, and monthly OKR reviews.
- Improvements to our merchandising operations through Open to Buys (OTB) and better Cash Flow Management.
We’ve automated many more of our retail operations, making our team much more intelligent in running our day to day. From buying to pricing to optimization, we continue to find areas where we can automate and we’ve set a high goal in terms of percentage of operational automation. In short, we’re allocating our most valuable resources to focus on strategic initiatives that will help build brands on marketplaces.
As we build, test, and refine these tools for automation, we’re also making them available to our partners as managed services and self-service software. Our tools are created and proven by sellers, for sellers.
10. Innovation Strategy
We’ve introduced new processes for us to consistently innovate across the organization. We’ve borrowed from Amazon’s “6 Pager” Working Backwards document for employees to use to put forth their ideas. We’ve empowered employees to invest in company sponsored hackathons to get projects done quickly.
Overall, I feel good about the progress so far, and I strongly believe that we’ve positioned the company for growth in fiscal year 2020 . 2020 will be a strong growth year for us as we continue to build out our platform and foster more partnerships with brands.
A Look into the Future
As already mentioned, 2020 will be a year of growth. We’ve created an operational infrastructure that can facilitate scale. In 2020, I envision a future as follows:
1. Platform Scale
We will continue to build out our platform of software and services with new added apps and new services all brought together into a consistent experience for our partners. We’re currently developing a partner portal where our partners can monitor performance of their brands across different marketplaces. We will also be opening our platform to the developer community for developers to build apps on top of our platform, further enhancing the services available to our partners.
2. Retail Growth
Our retail service will continue to grow. We will continue to relentlessly focus on our retail partnerships, ensuring growth for our brands and distributing them on multiple marketplaces. Our goal is to outperform for all of our brands. Our international footprint will grow as we continue to help brands go international.
3. Agency and SaaS Growth
We will be growing our Agency and Software partnership models. As the marketplace jungle continues to get saturated and competition increases, more brands are looking to take more direct control of their online presence. Our agency partnership model and self-service software empower our partners to pursue their goals, while retaining access to best-in-class tools and services.
4. Intelligent Automation and Operational Rigor
Our platform will become increasingly automated with data science and artificial intelligence, saving time and freeing us to focus more on our partners and big picture strategies to drive greater growth and a better partner experience. We will build upon the momentum over the last 90 days to create a world class organization.
5. Customer Experience Funnel
The Kaspien brand will be synonymous with marketplace growth. We will continue to invest in brand building, content, and inbound marketing. We will have a solid outbound operation backed by an optimized sales funnel using data, insights, and intelligent automation that is working day in and day out with current and potential partners to find them the right solution in the Kaspien portfolio. We will support our partners effectively and provide consistently superb service.
6. New People Focus
We will continue to invest in our employees, who are the life blood of our future. We will be re-imagining our HR function through new leadership and create new programs for employee engagement, onboarding, development, etc. Every Kaspien employee will have a long-standing career at Kaspien.
So that’s it. Hopefully this gives you all a sense of where we’ve been and where we want to go. I hope you are as excited about our future as I am.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, thoughts, or just want to chat. I’m always available.
Kunal Chopra, CEO,Kaspien