How GearLaunch’s End-To-End E-Commerce Platform Enables Small & Niche Entrepreneurs To Compete with Established Retailers
1.30.18 Ecommerce

How GearLaunch’s End-To-End E-Commerce Platform Enables Small & Niche Entrepreneurs To Compete with Established Retailers

By: Michael Senecal

The Crunch: Supply chains, inventory, shipping logistics, and marketing precision remain barriers to growth for many small e-commerce retailers. That means competing with established companies is still a major challenge for budding entrepreneurs. GearLaunch removes those barriers with its end-to-end platform for creating and operating an e-commerce business for print-on-demand products. The company eliminates the expense and risk associated with inventory and overhead and makes large-scale manufacturing, sales, and shipping capabilities available to independent merchants. GearLaunch enables anyone with a great idea to build a brand, earn customers, and grow their business.

Nishant Bhardwaj, a first-generation immigrant to the US, began selling print-on-demand (POD) T-shirts and other products in 2014. After trying several POD e-commerce platforms in his first year, he switched to GearLaunch. The move helped him overcome many growth obstacles.

“My customers now have access to higher quality, competitively priced products that get delivered on time, which isn’t always the case in the POD business,” Nishant said. “GearLaunch also allows me to offer upsell opportunities and still get orders fulfilled in a timely manner.”

The platform’s built-in analytics help Nishant make better product decisions. GearLaunch also handles customer service and supports email marketing. The results have been higher margins, increased average order value, and more repeat customers for Nishant. After starting out with $12,000 in sales in its first year, his business grossed $5 million in 2017.

Photo of GearLaunch CEO Thatcher Spring

GearLaunch CEO Thatcher Spring set out to solve an inventory management problem in e-commerce.

“Switching was easy, and the GearLaunch team has been extremely attentive to my needs and suggestions,” Nishant said. “Anyone looking to start an e-commerce business should give GearLaunch a good look.”

GearLaunch makes stories like Nishant’s possible because it provides everything needed to start and grow a business. It powers the entire back end — from production to fulfillment to customer service — and its custom-branded domains and marketing tools let entrepreneurs control their own storefronts. Because there are no upfront costs or risks associated with inventory, anyone in the world can start a business with GearLaunch.

That’s exactly the problem CEO Thatcher Spring wanted to solve when he founded GearLaunch in 2013. “I was running a wholesale retail apparel business, and I noticed some serious pain points independent retailers had with demand planning, inventory management, and operational support,” he said. “It made me realize there was a need for some kind of field-leveling technology to allow those retailers to compete with the big folks.”

Product Creation and Storefront Personalization Tools Remove Barriers to Entry

GearLaunch’s flexible, end-to-end e-commerce platform enables merchants to build scalable online businesses with tools that, historically, have been unavailable to independent entrepreneurs.

“Our onboarding and customer success team does a great job getting people set up and educating them about the platform,” Thatcher said. “We can guide customers step by step through the process if they need it, but figuring out where everything is in our application usually requires no more than a few minutes.”

GearLaunch products include apparel, canvas prints, hats, tote bags, water bottles, and more. And that high-quality, competitively priced merchandise is easy for merchants to personalize through built-in POD design tools. The merchant simply uploads the design and GearLaunch takes care of the rest.

“Our merchants tend to target passionate interests,” Thatcher said. “Pets, for example, are a fantastic area. But whatever the interest, people like to display their affinities on the products they’re wearing and that they have around their homes.”

Next comes the merchant’s personalized storefront with its own domain and customized product pages. Templates aid in the construction of unique brands that can reach niche audiences with targeted messaging.

“The distinction is between sending a customer to Walmart to locate an item in a sea of other merchandise, or inviting the customer into a unique retail space, where the seller can merchandise the product correctly and show the customer why it’s relevant to them,” Thatcher said. “It’s the same distinction between listing a product on one of Amazon’s impersonal pages versus creating a store that reflects a certain point of view, where people can actually have a memorable experience.”

Operational Support Services Enhance Business Effectiveness

While GearLaunch’s platform has democratized the process of starting an e-commerce business, its dedication to seamless backend support is what enables merchants to offer an experience that keeps customers coming back. Behind the scenes, GearLaunch provides complimentary customer service and handles orders, payment processing, print-on-demand production, and shipping.

“Delivering operational support levels the playing field and gets more merchants competing as independent entities,” Thatcher said. “They can move away from listing their products on someone else’s website. Instead, they can build their own customer relationships while still receiving all the operational support they might get on a larger platform.”

“Most of the larger e-commerce retailers take for granted the block-and-tackle items such as inventory and customer service. But if you ask small and niche merchants what their problems are, inventory and customer service are where they struggle the most.” — GearLaunch CEO Thatcher Spring

These are services that are essential to e-commerce success, and GearLaunch helps small retailers tackle the backend and compete with the biggest in the business without a risky up-front investment.

“Most of the larger e-commerce retailers take for granted the block-and-tackle items such as inventory and customer service,” Thatcher said. “But if you ask small and niche merchants what their problems are, inventory and customer service are where they struggle the most.”

GearLaunch: Leveling the E-Commerce Playing Field

Big e-commerce players typically rely on a search- and discovery-based commerce model: they make a product and rely on customers to find it. To successfully compete against them, small and niche retailers are doing the opposite: finding a specific audience first and then developing a product specifically for — and marketing to — that audience.

“We’re enabling a unique competitive advantage among independent merchants. With our tools, they can compete for — and win — customers that otherwise might have been customers at Amazon,” Thatcher said.

That’s because those merchants bring intimate niche-market knowledge and real community participation to the table. They know what the customer wants because they’re selling to people like themselves.

Screenshot of GearLaunch dashboard

“With a site like Amazon, where all the pages look the same, and the targeting is not exact, the experience is more general,” Thatcher said. “Today’s consumers tend to respond more positively to people who know exactly how to speak to them.”

With GearLaunch’s integrated marketing analytics dashboard, merchants can monitor their success by tracking profits and conversion rates and managing customer data — including email addresses. “We compile the actionable data to enable targeted marketing, so merchants can go directly to buyers without having to rely on the marketplace to bring the buyers in,” Thatcher said.

Success stories like Nishant’s are possible not only in the US and other developed countries but all over the world.

“We look at e-commerce as a category that’s growing by 25% year over year. Not all of that growth is going to come from the shopping malls of the internet,” Thatcher said. “Our thesis on empowering merchants is that a lot of that growth can actually be owned by independent merchants on their own sites, running their own businesses, all over the world. That’s our objective.”