People hate doing things themselves. Today we have cars that are self-driving, microwaves that are self-cleaning, thermostats that are self-adjusting – even sentences that are self-completing. Automation is just about everywhere, from the streets we drive on to the stores we shop at, but there’s still a long way to go before we reach the ceiling of what it can do.
Linnworks is bringing that ceiling closer to reality. On Wednesday, the commerce automation company announced a new majority investment from Marlin Equity Partners that it will use to scale its product capabilities and continue its global expansion. Linnworks’ vision is to automate processes like inventory, product information and order management to enable businesses to scale. The company has customers spanning 50 countries that ship to over 140 nations worldwide.
Total commerce control
Much like a self-driving car might free up a driver to take a bite of their lunch, Linnworks’ solution automates key business operations that allow managers to focus on scale. Headquartered in the U.K., the SaaS company’s goal is to give brands and retailers what CEO Callum Campbell calls “total commerce control.”
“The world of commerce that we’re living in is very much centered around a fantastic consumer experience, where you and I as consumers can buy the products that we want to access on a whole host of different platforms, online and offline — great for us as consumers, but it’s challenging for brands and retailers. How do I, as a brand or retailer, take my products and make them available for sale wherever my customers are choosing to shop?” Campbell told Modern Shipper. “So what you end up with is a very fragmented ecosystem for the brand or the retailer.”
To manage that disjointed network, Linnworks adds a central hub to commerce operations through which brands and retailers can reach consumers on the channels where they shop. The company automates inventory management, product information management and order management across all channels and operations, with partnerships including marketplaces like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT).
“Take, for example, this pen,” Campbell said, holding up a normal ballpoint pen. “You want to sell this pen on your website, you want to sell it on Amazon, you want to sell it on eBay, you want to sell it on Instagram – you can sell it across a whole host of different environments at the same time, but in order to do that properly and not cause problems for your customers, you need to control your stock levels. And all of these different environments need to describe this pen and list it, manage pricing, and then when you receive orders you’ve got to kind of aggregate them and collect them centrally, and then assign them to the correct shipping services. … Imagine you’re selling 1,000 different types of pens on 20 different channels internationally – that becomes a complex stock management problem. And so Linnworks sits there centrally and synchronizes your inventory.”
Campbell noted that consumers today expect to be able to purchase products in the environments where they spend most of their time, whether that be in stores or on their phones, and they expect products to be delivered on their terms. In Linnworks’ recent study, the company surveyed more than 1,000 customers in North America and Europe and found that 76% said convenience was their top priority when selecting a retailer – even above price.
In order to provide that convenience, Campbell says, retailers need to meet their customers where they’re at. But as brands attempt to sell into more and more channels, the complexity and operational costs of doing so can limit scale – which is where Linnworks comes in.
“If [businesses] want to maximize revenues and not miss out on any revenue opportunity, then they need to figure out how to be wherever their customers are with their products. So commerce automation allows them to maximize revenue and be in all of these different channels simultaneously.”
Cash flow for your workflow
Linnworks will use the new investment to boost the functionality of its automation offerings, as well as to expand connectivity by integrating with more selling channels, 3PLs, enterprise resource planning applications and shipping providers. The company is also aiming to provide its clients more insights using a combination of in-house business intelligence, machine learning and AI. Those innovations, Campbell says, will give businesses greater control and visibility to make smarter decisions.
Marlin Equity Capital led the investment, which was completed July 30.
“We wanted to work with a partner, from a financing and strategic standpoint, who could help us accelerate our growth, realize our full potential and really reach that global scale that we’re going after,” said Campbell. “And so we spoke to a whole host of different players in the market, but Marlin were the stand-out.”
The global investment firm manages over $7.6 billion in capital, bringing the financial firepower to help Linnworks scale. But beyond that, Campbell explains, Marlin brings knowledge of market trends, extensive sector expertise and the shared vision of becoming a global market leader. To boot, the firm is headquartered in Hermosa Beach, California, giving Linnworks a connection to the North American market from across the pond.
An effortless economy
Campbell sees the growing trend of convenience in ordering and shipping as the new normal.
“I think the big driving force in the market for the consumer right now is what we’re calling the rise of the ‘effortless economy.’ In a nutshell,” he explained, “consumers expect effortless commerce, a frictionless experience in terms of how they discover products, how they purchase products, how products are shipped to them and how the post-sale returns and refunds process works.”
That ease is just one trend driving Linnworks’ strategy for the future. Campbell says the company has kept an eye on the strengthening of marketplaces, and he wants to be in more of them. On the other end of the spectrum, Linnworks has also noted a rise in direct-to-consumer (DTC) commerce and plans on emphasizing its DTC offerings. Campbell also hopes to integrate with more social commerce platforms, like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Instagram.
“A brand or retailer through their relationship with Linnworks will have a great relationship with marketplaces and social platforms,” he said. “That means understanding, what does best practice look like on those platforms? How do you maximize revenue on those platforms? How do you deliver a great post-sale experience through those platforms? What’s the consumer lifecycle? How do brands and retailers plug into the platform to ensure they deliver a great experience across the entire consumer life cycle?”
With Linnworks, customers will be able to answer those questions, but they won’t have to worry about them – the automation will handle it.