In late 2019, I founded Aztro Marketplace, a platform to connect international design-driven brands with retailers and interior designers in the U.S. Aztro Marketplace represented over 100 brands, carried over 3,500 products, and worked with over 4,000 retailers and interior designers.
- Team Leader/Founder
- Art Director
- UX - UI
- Customer Campaign
- Visual Designer
- Google Analytics
It can be difficult for international brands to enter the U.S. market, while retailers and decorators often struggle to discover new products that are not saturated in the market.
As an international brand seeking to sell products to retailers and interior decorators, entering the U.S. market can be a costly endeavor, involving expenses related to marketing, tradeshow events, travel, and operations. These challenges inevitably lead to a limited product selection in the U.S., leaving retailers and decorators with offerings that customers can readily find online.
Understandinghow brands prefer to be represented and how buyers source products digitally, especially during the pandemic.
In order to adapt to customers accustomed to traditional methods of selling and buying products, we made it a priority to understand the unique goals of our diverse customer base. Through extensive interviews with brands, decorators, and retailers, we sought to identify their specific needs and desires. Drawing upon these valuable insights, we developed a platform that placed the brand's vision at the forefront, enabling retailers to easily, efficiently, and securely explore and discover new sourcing opportunities.
Generated business opportunities for over 100 brands, 3,000 buyers and carried 4,000 products.
Aztro emerged as the go-to Design Marketplace for buyers who seek to stand out through distinctive and unique designs. By leveraging our platform, our customers have successfully generated over half a million dollars in orders, all the while gaining valuable exposure to the U.S. market at a cost that remained accessible and affordable. Stores were able to offer their customers products they had never seen before, or that nearby or online competitors did not carry.
Three types of customers, three different needs
Aztro helped create relationships between international brands that want to enter the market without an astronomical upfront investment and retailers and interior decorators looking to differentiate from the local offering.
Down the Rabit Hole
Customer Engagement Funnels
Due to having three types of customers, we had to be strategic about how and where we could best engage with them. This helped us craft straightforward funnels that ultimately led to creating an account or purchasing. Below is one of the maps we used to drive the architecture of our site and the sales and marketing strategy.
Email Marketing Campaigns for New and Existing Customers
Our onboarding funnel was vital for growth. We invited users via social media and email marketing to a landing, page highlighting how Aztro would address their business needs. Once an account was opened, users were tagged based on categories and interests; this streamlined our email marketing efforts by showing them news, stories, and new products most relevant to their needs.
Conversion focus Landing Pages
Conversion was one of our main KPIs, so we did much work to make it easier for different users to learn, evaluate, and create an account with us. Landing pages played a key role, and we created pages for brands, retailers, and interior designers. Based on metrics and user feedback we developed numerous landing pages that ultimately led to converting a large number of prospect brands.
Signup Form for all customers
Given that we were working with different businesses, one of our biggest challenges was onboarding them while being able to gather as much vital information about them and their operation as possible. As a startup, we had to test, learn, and revise our onboarding form to increase the conversion rate. Below are mockups of three of our signup forms, their failures, and improvements.
Communicating our Brands' Vision
Brand Profile pages
One of our promises to brands was that we would display and promote their products with style, reflecting their approach and the care they put into making their products. Each brand had its profile, and through it, you could see the available products and their story, videos, policies, catalogs, lookbooks, and more. These were essential sections on our site, one of which we were very proud of. Below are some early sketches and wireframe mockups we developed internally to better communicate our design intent to the programmers.
Comprehensive Order Placement
Given that Aztro focused on wholesale orders, our cart needed to be easy for customers to read and edit. Each brand had a minimum purchase order that a retailer or trade agent was required to meet. Hence, each brand had its total calculation, and users could choose if they wanted to check out from one, all, or only brands for which they met the minimum requirement.
We knew the cart would be where most retailers would re-evaluate their selections and allocate their purchasing budget; therefore, we looked to simplify by eliminating details and including only critically important information for the user and the order placement.
Focusing on customer needs
Customer-Driven Sales Programs
We continuously worked with our retailer and trade accounts to see how we could keep improving our product offerings. As a result of identifying user pain points, we created our “Personal Shopper” program, designed to help stores and interior designers identify products within a budget, deadline, special occasion, and more. This increased our sales by 18% over two months.
Through a survey, we would collect key information that our sales team could use to create tailored wishlists or lookbooks to send to stores.
Catalogs and Lookbooks
While our main value proposition was a digital trade show and marketplace for design products, we appreciate that our customer base was used in a traditional way of looking at products. In 2020 we introduced our downloadable catalog and lookbook, designed to open a new stream of traffic to the site and allow customers to admire the products in places where the internet was limited. These collaterals drastically increased our email marketing conversion, capturing more buyers who fell in love when seeing all we offered in one document.
Aztro launched in May 2020 and closed in December 2021. I look back at this experience with pride and a level of fulfillment. Not being a programmer, a first-time entrepreneur, and with no outside funding, we achieved incredible milestones. Toward the end, we had a platform that could withstand high-level orders and traffic.
If I had to do it all over again, I would:
I would not build it on a third-party app such as Shopify. We spent too much time trying to circle the limitations of the ecosystem, which is built for D2C sales, not wholesale.
Work on the customer journey and the funnel simultaneously. We created our marketing and sales funnel only when we already had an MVP; in retrospect, we could have combined and benefitted from each other.
Create a business with a team, including a technical person and a salesperson. As a solo founder, I had to wear too many hats and spread myself too thin. Ultimately, we needed to move faster but couldn't.
Simplify early on. We could have launched earlier, but our MVP had too many functionalities that, when looking back, we did not need at the time. Instead, we could have spent more time on a stronger go-to-market strategy.