Commersations Resource Center

Catching Up With Mike Golden, President of ShopRunner

Mike GoldenLaunched in October of last year, ShopRunner is a $79 annual subscription program that provides its members with free two-day shipping and free returns on an ever-growing assortment of products from a network of over 60 best-in-class brands and retailers.

The coverage around ShopRunner thus far has centered on the program’s parallels to Amazon Prime, and how GSI is using it to provide multi-channel retailers a platform to compete with the world’s largest online retailer. But what are the challenges for GSI as a company in operating a consumer-facing endeavor like Shoprunner?

To dive deeper on these and other topics, I caught up with Mike Golden, President of ShopRunner. Here’s what he had to say:

On ShopRunner vs. Amazon Prime:
“It’s been interesting that the media has portrayed ShopRunner solely as an anti-Amazon initiative by GSI Commerce. While there are similarities between ShopRunner and Amazon Prime, we are excited to deliver a customer experience that goes far beyond just an online program. Today we offer benefits like free shipping on returns and exclusive discounts from our retail partners. We also have a much larger assortment of products that are eligible for free 2-day shipping, and our assortment is poised to grow as more partners go live. In the near future, ShopRunner will extend into the offline world as we work with our retailer partners to leverage their brick and mortar footprints in innovative ways to enhance the multi-channel shopping experience.”

On retailers’ response to ShopRunner:
“The response has been very positive. ShopRunner solves a huge problem for them that may be impossible for them to solve on their own. The issue is that today’s online shoppers have an increasing expectation of fast and free shipping, but delivering this is difficult for most retailers on a stand-alone basis. Retailers are savvy and realize that the winners online are meeting and exceeding the new customer expectations. The bottom line is – retailers can win when they work together.”

“When we first started more than a year ago, the response was consistent--many thought ShopRunner was a great concept, but wondered whether enough retailers sign on, if we could deliver the technology and user experience across disparate platforms, and if we’d get enough consumers to sign up. The good news is that these questions have been answered, and we have retailers that were skeptical a year ago signing on, and many that we would have chased last year who are now chasing us.”

ShopRunner

The challenges for GSI in operating a consumer-facing brand and marketplace:
“We realized very early on that ShopRunner was a completely different business and required a much different set of skills. I’m very proud of the team we have assembled, and many of them have spent their careers in consumer-facing retail roles.”

“One big challenge for GSI had been to formulate and deliver a strategy to “leverage its network” for the benefit of GSI, its clients, and their consumers. GSI’s network of clients has more traffic than any other ecommerce company outside of Amazon and Apple1. So for a start-up guy, that’s a dream set of assets.”

On spreading ShopRunner and attracting new members:
ShopRunner’s go-to-market strategy is primarily focused on the integration of ShopRunner into the customer experience of our partners’ web stores. If you think about the traffic flowing through our retail partners’ sites, their social media presence, and their offline footprints, the brand is becoming pervasive very quickly. We’ll create applications of ShopRunner throughout other channels as well– we have not been shy about trying new things and seeing what works. Our voice will continue to get louder as our assortment fills out.”

On future enhancements, integration and user experience:
“The key areas we are working on right now are single sign-on and e-wallet capabilities that will enable our members to more conveniently shop across the ShopRunner network. In coming weeks, we are making updates to our marketplace that include improved search and refinement capabilities, so shoppers can quickly find whatever they need. While there are no current plans to ‘cart-enable’ the ShopRunner marketplace, our business model will evolve based on where the facts take us.”

About ShopRunner’s launch into mobile:
“Our first smartphone app is scheduled to launch in early Q2 and is an important step to deliver on our multichannel goals. It will help bring together the online and offline worlds of our retailers and continue to set ShopRunner apart. Obviously all the features that exist on our web site will be available to ShopRunner members through our mobile app…and then some. Members will be able to search the entire network for products using a product name, SKU#, or even a UPC scan while in-store.”

1. Editor's note: Per Internet Retailer Top 500 2010 Edition traffic estimates

Duane Peck, Corporate Marketing Manager for GSI Commerce, is a blog contributor and has been with GSI since March 2008. He can found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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