Paul Holmes 05 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
PAN Communications developed a strategic and comprehensive business-to-business public relations program for RetailExchange.com that incorporated a combination of heavy media and analyst relations, targeting business, retail and IT trade media, as well as retail and Internet industry analysts.
Core program elements included: issuing news, such as partnership, funding and other corporate announcements, on a bi-weekly basis; proactively pitching trend stories to journalists, leveraging the popularity of Internet exchanges and the overwhelming success of RetailExchange.com during a time when the bottom has fallen out for other dot-com companies; uncovering and pursuing speaking opportunities in both the retail trade and business sector to heighten the visibility of RetailExchange.com’s executive team; and coordinating a bi-coastal media/analyst tour in San Francisco, New York and Boston.
PAN launched the public relations program for RetailExchange.com through a series of technology partnership press releases that highlighted RetailExchange.com’s relationships with some the best technical minds in the industry, thus validating RetailExchange.com’s sound technology infrastructure and paving the way to credibility on the Internet. The next series of releases focused on successful financial partnerships with leading investors, proving that RetailExchange.com has a secure and promising business model of which major companies, like American Express, wanted to be a part.
The releases opened the doors to educating the media about RetailExchange.com and were met with tremendous interest that resulted in several articles touting the company’s success. Couple that with industry buy-in from some of the most influential analyst groups, such as The Yankee Group and Forrester Research, along with AMR Research, validating RetailExchange.com’s importance in the marketplace, and here is a true public relations success story worthy of honors.
RetailExchange.com was trying to find its place in the overcrowded excess consumer products marketplace – a $120 billion dollar industry worldwide. In addition, traditional retailers were reluctant to purchase consumer products over the Internet; therefore PAN was challenged with changing retailers’ buying habits. At the same time, RetailExchange.com had significant domain expertise with 97 years in the retail industry, born from a solid old-economy brick and mortar company – Gordon Brothers, Inc.
The opportunity to tout this solid foundation during an era of the demise of the “dot-coms” couldn’t have been better. PAN capitalized on this industry trend to RetailExchange.com’s advantage. PAN secured several stand-alone company profiles on RetailExhange.com and its antithesis to pure play dot-com companies. In addition, PAN effectively demonstrated to the media RetailExchange.com’s superior merchant-driven model, based on doing business the way retailers have done throughout history. This was the key differentiator for RetailExchange.com since all the other competition operated with an auction-based business model.
RESEARCH AND PLANNING
RetailExchange.com launched on February 14, 2000, with the objective of being the leader in enhancing the way businesses buy and sell excess consumer products, and capturing a significant portion of the $120 billion global market share for excess consumer products. After only nine months in existence, RetailExchange.com found itself signing technology partnerships and decided it needed public relations to help drive more users – namely, buyers and manufacturers – to the site. PAN was retained to develop a public relations strategy that would attract its targeted audience – buyers and sellers, as well as potential investors.
For the plan, PAN researched competitors in the industry and found that RetailExchange.com was the only player using a negotiation format; others were auction-based. In addition, PAN immersed itself in the excess consumer goods marketplace and found that is was flagrantly underserved. There was significant fragmentation among buyers and sellers, limited access to off-price product, and traditional transaction methods were highly inefficient.
PAN highlighted this information in its pitches to reporters and analysts. This added to PAN’s strategy of positioning RetailExchange.com not as a dot-com start-up, but rather as an old economy player with a new economy twist. And it worked. PAN also interviewed RetailExchange.com’s executive team to understand areas of expertise and insight into the industry. This helped to heighten the appeal of these executives for ongoing media opportunities.
During their research, PAN discovered that during retail slumps, RetailExchange.com was not negatively impacted since many retailers successfully used the exchange to sell excess inventory that didn’t sell in the stores. In addition, manufacturers who were stuck with overruns also utilized the convenience of the exchange to unload their surplus goods. PAN capitalized on the seasonality of the retail season, especially around the holiday season, when most retailers were mourning sales, and positioned RetailExchange.com as a win-win business model that isn’t affected by the ups and downs of the retail economy.
PAN quickly gained traction with key reporters at the retail and IT trade press, which paved the way to interest from the top-tier business and new economy media. Significant media coverage and feature stories appeared in Industry Standard, Business 2.0, DNR, WWD, eCommerce Business, ComputerWorld, eWeek, Internet Retailer, Internet Week, The Boston Globe, Chicago Sun Times, MSNBC.com, and Wall Street Journal Interactive, among other outlets. Based on the momentum generated from the public relations program, RetailExchange.com was able to close two additional parterships and its last round of funding – $50 million. Through PAN Communications’ efforts, RetailExchange.com became a dominant force in the excess consumer goods industry, and the industry’s leading business-to-business exchange conducting millions of millions of dollars in transactions. Other players died out, or became dwarfed in comparison.