Fluent Commerce's hand in changing the omnichannel retail experience

The Australian startup had a plan to merge online with offline and convinced retailers to give their platform a go.

Fluent Commerce touts itself as helping retailers adapt to the future of commerce and customer experience. While Fluent Commerce now has a number of big retailers on its client list -- such as Glue Store, Target, JD Sports, and Nine West -- it took a little while for the Australian startup to get off the ground.

After starting a different retail-based venture, Fluent Commerce founder and CTO Mehdi Fassaie realised there was a disconnect between a retailer's offline presence with their online one -- if they even had an online presence at all.

"Retailers were struggling in an omnichannel world, so we're trying to link up their online and stores and trying to bridge that gap and the complexities around that," he told ZDNet during Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent in Las Vegas last week.

According to Fassaie, retailers were struggling because it wasn't just a technology challenge, they actually had to change their business models as well.

"Whereas before they were largely store operations and they had a separate ecommerce operation, they had to bring it together," he said.

"Our core value proposition to these big enterprises is that the customer experience -- expectations around retail are changing and no one really knows where the market is going. The key thing for [retailers] is that they need to be able to rapidly respond to the changing market."

Just like any startup, landing a major client is a way to prove the value of the business. Woolworths took a chance with Fluent Commerce and as Fassaie detailed, the bet paid off for the Australian conglomerate.

See also: 10 companies leading digital transformation in retail

The company initially implemented a "click and collect" platform at Big W. The partnership soon extended to Fluent Commerce executing all of Woolworths' eBay integrations, which allowed customers to collect eBay purchases in-store.

"That's our technology, and all their locker technology as well," Fassaie said. "Basically blending their online and offline, and allowing people to buy online and click and collect in-store."

According to Fassaie, the company's advantage is reducing the time to market.

"A lot of the more traditional solutions in this space are big, heavy, on-premises products that have a very significant implementation costs as well," he said. "We took [Big W] live in their first phase in under three months, whereas usually those projects would be nine to 12 months."

The company's platform is completely based on AWS.

"We see ourselves as an enterprise retail platform on top of AWS," Fassaie said.

"What we do is we take away the worry of the infrastructure. Usually, platforms have to manage the infrastructure themselves -- that's not only managing the hardware around it, but all the people to operate it.

"One of the things we do and provide for our clients is on-demand scale."

Pointing to the recent Black Friday sales, Fassaie said the Fluent Commerce platform doesn't really care that there's Black Friday traffic versus non-Black Friday traffic as it will scale to meet demand.

"Insofar as our clients were concerned, we didn't need to be notified, whereas other clients -- where part of it was on-premises, the old school, and part on us, on the on-prem side -- had to run performance tests, they had to keep doing it for months and months before they had to get ready for Black Friday loads," he explained.

Not surprisingly there are still retail businesses, especially omnichannel ones, that are yet to realise they needed to change in order to survive.

Fassaie said retailers need to understand there's no single-channel experience anymore.

Asha Barbaschow travelled to re:Invent as a guest of AWS.

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