The Supply Side: RichContext helping suppliers define future of online shopping

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 369 views 

Rogers-based tech company RichContext is a startup launched in mid-2016, but it has rapidly grown its client base to include some of the biggest names in the consumer packaged goods space. The company was also recently tapped by Walmart as one of its 12 connected content partners.

Co-founders Billy Courtney, Breck Kelley and Troy Gasnier all crossed paths while working in Northwest Arkansas’ supplier/retail sector. Courtney and Kelley worked together at Coca-Cola, and Gasnier logged time at Saatchi & Saatchi X handling the Walmart and Coca-Cola accounts.

Courtney, director of client partnerships, said in their various roles the trifecta began to see gaps in services and capabilities needed to grow online sales. After plenty of soul-searching, the trio decided to bootstrap their enterprise, which focuses on building solutions with technology for their growing client base to better manage and grow their online businesses.

Courtney said the three of them left their jobs in July 2016, and it took four months to land their first client. Kelley, director of operations, adds that today they work with over 160 clients who represent more than 6,000 brands.

While RichContext is a technology company, none of the founders are proclaimed technology experts, but that didn’t stop them from jumping in with both feet. Courtney said they were each at a place in their careers when they were ready to give entrepreneurship a try.

“We were tired of seeing good ideas languish in the graveyard because they died at design,” Courtney said. “We wanted to be a company that could take these best ideas and then create a product to allow for testing and learning. We wanted to start with the larger supplier brands because we had worked in that space and saw the gaps, which we aimed to fill.”

He said their connections got them meetings with some of the largest suppliers to retail, and leadership was intrigued by their plan. But again, they had to put together a technology team to actually build the applications and platforms they are patenting today.

The company has 25 employees, and about half of them are technology engineers or front-end developers who build the platforms that solve supplier problems in relation to their online commerce or brick-and-mortar business. The other half of employees mine the data science and analytics for the growing client base of suppliers and retailers.

“We are developing digital tools our clients are using to encourage consumers to take action, converting browsers into buyers,” Courtney said.

According to the company website, some of the clients RichContext is working with include General Mills, Conagra Brands, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson.

Part of their work includes delivering end-to-end digital solutions that can help brands better manage their promotions online to mirror that in-store. Gasnier, director of strategy and product, said when a brand launches a new product or a new scent or flavor of an existing product in stores, they can highlight with signage at the aisle level. That doesn’t work online as there are no physical aisles, and products are retrieved by a search function.

The co-founders and management at Rogers-based RichContext, from left, Billy Courtney, director of partnerships; Troy Gasnier, director of strategy and products; Breck Kelley, director of operations.

One example the company gave was creating a landing page online with a marketing component like a coupon offer. The customer could then see a full range of product offerings in that brand and get additional content information. This gave the brand a way to market the new product online effectively and measure the results online, then compare the in-store promotion. The expanded content can also live as a link on the item page on the retailer’s site.

Optimized item content is one way products are noticed online in shopper searches. But Courtney said while RichContext does a fair amount of content creation for its brand clients, their tools and solution services go much further than that. This work helps brands find the missing pieces to the puzzle, Gasnier added.

“We are meeting with clients annually and working way upstream in planning to influence what comes to market digitally in the future. We are collaborating with our clients and not just handing over a black box product for them to use themselves. We are looking for opportunities they have and then building the tools and solution for them to realize that growth,” Gasnier said.

During Gasnier’s work at Saatchi & Saatchi X, he spent two years working in San Bruno, Calif., in the Walmart.com office. That experience gained tremendous insight into that business, which is helping RichContext today.

CONNECTED CONTENT PROVIDER
Walmart recently chose RichContext as one of its connected content partners in the retailer’s new program. Walmart said the streamlined group of providers was chosen from a larger field of 25 because suppliers were complaining there was no way to quantify the return on investment under the previous plan.

“What we found was a wide range of disparity between the costs and payoffs for our suppliers,” said Frank Ogura, a product manager for content acquisition at Walmart. “Just like when we reeled in the number of in-store merchandisers earlier this year, we are also scaling down the number of content providers and looking for those with deep category expertise to better service our suppliers.”

RichContext is one of two connected content partners supplying rich media to vendors. Walmart said it chose to keep the rich media partners separate because they have the capability to create enhanced experiences such as stoppable modules regardless of specific category expertise.

RichContext is one of three partners chosen to provide user-generated content on behalf of Walmart suppliers. This work includes expanding customer experiences for those shopping online.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Walmart in the new connected content partner program,” Courtney said. “RichContext aims to provide Walmart suppliers with the largest array of innovative options relating to rich media, user-generated content and other custom digital solutions. Walmart has surpassed all other retailers when it comes to content, specifically the work being done in the rich media space. We are proud to be driving new content experiences that meet brand requirements and category nuances.”

RichContext is happy to be working with Walmart, as well as some smaller retailers looking to overhaul their online offerings. The company recently held meetings with potential clients in the United Kingdom and Canada as it looks to expand its international reach.

Kelley said the company is growing revenue at a healthy clip, doubling sales from last year to 2018. He said sales revenue looks to double again in 2019. Kelley said the company will add personnel when the time is right. The company’s recent move into new offices at 3335 S. Market St. at the Shoppes at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, provides ample room to grow.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.

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