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Opinion

Catch’s marketplace: better late than never

So Catch of the Day has rebranded to Catch. It makes sense: it’s easier to remember and so much faster to type into a browser. But there is more. Catch is now a marketplace, offering Australia’s top retailers an opportunity to leverage its huge database.

It’s not a bad strategy considering Amazon’s imminent arrival, but the question that needs to be asked – and time will ultimately tell – is whether Catch can reinvent itself to be taken seriously as a marketplace? Will consumers be willing to make the switch with them?

The human brain is strange in the way it forms associations to things. Apple and Amazon have done an amazing job at crafting the brand associations they want customers to have, such as personalisation and exceptional customer experience. Catch has a few weeks (yes, weeks!) of experience doing this.

Catch grew up as a discounter. If anything, it was a brand destroyer, sourcing hugely reduced surplus stock from local and international suppliers and upsetting retailers in droves, as it offered never-before-seen prices in Australia. Until now, the only loyalty to Catch has been price. There is no other compelling reason for shoppers to want to buy from them.

But you can’t ignore the fact that the daily deal model is on its last legs. Consider the might that Groupon, Scoopon, Deals.com.au, Cudo and others once had. What happened? They fatigued their databases and upset the service industry. Discount online department stores like Catch have also been grappling with the problem of unsold stock – and it’s only getting worse.

I started to notice this flaw in 2014, around the same time that I realised marketplaces would be the next big trend for retailers. In the last few years, marketplaces like Ebay and Etsy have become one of the biggest channels for established retailers, while smaller marketplaces like MyDeal are gaining traction.

Some retailers have even worked out how to sell on Gumtree on an ongoing basis by varying the images, descriptions, account details and IP addresses they use on a regular basis.

So why didn’t Catch – the biggest daily deal site in Australia – notice and act on this trend sooner? I even suggested it to Gabby Leibovich in January 2016 when I told him about the model I had created for Clicko Deals, which combined a marketplace and major online sales event. At the time, Gabby told me the team didn’t have the appetite to make the switch to a marketplace model.

I can only guess that Amazon’s looming arrival and the tougher trading conditions made the company (now under CEO Nati Harpaz) rethink its position on marketplaces. As the saying goes, better late than never. But they’ll need to catch up quick.

Remember that selling online is like have a brightly lit store at the bottom of the stairs at the back of a dark alley. No one can see you. If you are not selling some of your products via third-party marketplaces by now, you are in the dark ages of e-commerce.

Mark Freidin is the co-founder of Internet Retailing and writes a weekly opinion column about the e-commerce industry. 

Have a burning question or idea you want to share? Email Mark at iretnews <@> octomedia.com.au.

Nati Harpaz is chairman of Octomedia, parent company of Internet Retailing.

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