For more than a decade now, ChannelAdvisor has set the global standard for e-commerce optimization by providing best-in-class technology, strategic services, and thought leadership to help retailers efficiently connect with their consumers.
The company was founded in 2001 by Scot Wingo and Aris Buinevicius, successful entrepreneurs who saw the need for a new retailer-focused e-commerce solution. The two developed an innovative software solution that tamed the complexity of the emerging online retail space by giving sellers the power to make their products visible across multiple channels to the widest range of potential customers.
Wingo, who studied computer engineering as an undergrad student in South Carolina and then later at N.C. State, jokes that’s he’s always been on the “geekier side.” He says he saw the opportunity to create ChannelAdvisor after selling a former business to the public company, Goto.com.
“We were able to split out, like a management buy-out of pieces of what we needed to start ChannelAdvisor,” he says. “We saw out there that eBay and other auctions were very popular. There wasn’t really a solution out there for large businesses to take advantage of eBay, so that was the kernel of the idea. Since then it has expanded pretty dramatically.”
ChannelAdvisor, which is based in Morrisville, helps retailers across the nation manage e-commerce channels, which include search engines like Google, comparison shopping engines like Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Pricegrabber, and Nexttag, and marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Buy.com. Wingo says his company’s goal is to help retailers understand all the available opportunities to get their products in front of consumers and then to manage and evaluate the economics of those outcomes in a holistic way.
ChannelAdvisor has around 3,000 clients spread out over twenty countries. Wingo says his client list breaks out to being about half well-known large companies such as Nike, Dell and Wal-Mart, and the other half being small to medium size companies.
“The smaller ones are very entrepreneurial, essentially local businesses that sell everything from used smart phones to wholesale shoes and auto parts,” he explains. “All kinds of stuff like that online, and we help them. A lot of them primarily get started on eBay and Amazon because it’s kind of a good way to start something like that, but then they grow to other e-commerce channels and we help them there too.”
Wingo says that his company puts clients’ data in the “cloud” and then helps distribute it. He explains that large retailers tend to want to outsource things completely, so for them ChannelAdvisor offers a fully managed kind of model. For small to medium size businesses, he says the service is often more consultative.
“They’re maybe using the software and want to see how to get to the next level and we’ll engage them on that. We also help them with technical support if they have any kind of question about how the software is working or how the channel’s working. We also put a lot of that information online for anyone to use for free essentially, in what we call a strategy and support center. Even if someone’s not our customer, they get quite a bit of value off of that.”
Wingo places a lot of importance on finding and keeping the best employees to make ChannelAdvisor a great company. “What we have found is that we try to find those people that work well with other people and are really as high-quality as possible,” he says. “We definitely want the top performers, and those top performers draw other performers in there. Recruiting them is hard, so we invest a lot of time in that and in keeping them. And also, you kind of have to weed out folks that aren’t top performers. So we work with that as well and definitely measure everyone and make sure that everyone’s performing.”
Investing in employees seems to be paying off in more ways than one. ChannelAdvisor was just selected by the Triangle Business Journal as one of the “Best Places to Work in the Triangle,” an accolade of which Wingo is very proud. He says his best source for getting good employees is referrals.
“If we can hire someone that refers other people, that’s another part of that. It’s kind of a snow ball, and once you get that going, it’s really good. And then our brand is pretty well known, so we get a lot of inbound interest in working here.”
Wingo says he feels that a lot of the big retailers have lost sight of valuing both their employees and customers, and that it opens up an opportunity for small businesses to stand out with good service. He attributes much of his company’s success to filling that niche.
When it comes to having a documented mission or value statement however, Wingo explains that’s not his style. “Everywhere I’ve worked that has those formal things, they come off as very cheesy, and all the employees make fun of them,” he says. “I’ve been guilty as charged on a couple occasions. So we’ve tried not to do that. They always have the acronym too, like KPOW or KZAM or something like that, or the eight Z’s, or something strange. So we’ve avoided doing that because I think that, actually, when you define it that way it kind of detracts from it in a weird way.”
Mission statement or not, there’s no doubt that ChannelAdvisor is growing at an incredible rate, and Wingo says that the potential just keeps expanding all the time. Using social media with retailers he says is just one example of this ever-changing and growing dynamic.
“I think what’s fun about this business versus any other is just that the opportunity gets bigger every day. I’ve been in businesses where you feel like it’s shrinking around you, you know? Whether it’s competitors or things are changing, you feel things closing in on you. If anything, at ChannelAdvisor it’s opening up every day.”