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Thomas Vosper, aisle 3 CEO on how he aims to fix fragmentation of ecommerce


This interview is a part of the Partner Marketing Ecosystem Speaker Series, sponsored by Impact.com.


Stream the full interview here.


aisle 3 is both a retailer and a tech business, says CEO and cofounder Thomas Vosper.

“We’d describe ourselves as an A.I. business that aggregates the internet for shopping and looks like a sneaker retailer right now,” Vosper said, adding that “aggregating the internet” is a “frighteningly big term.”


But the mission is rooted in fixing a problem that Vosper realized when he started working at Amazon 15 years ago. At the time, he was on a team of just a handful of Amazon employees based in the U.K.

He was drawn to the fact that Amazon was trying to become this “everything store,” aggregating different merchants, including independent merchants under a products listing page and a marketplace.


“Over the last 15 years, I’ve seen how that’s worked in some cases but also hasn’t worked in a lot of cases,” Vosper said. “It doesn’t work on Google and other comparison sites and platforms.”


That’s because the internet and products on the internet are aggregating using product codes and IDs that were designed for groceries back in the 1970s, he said. That means that looking for a product on the internet often requires searching on Google, right-clicking on several different links, ads and images, opening up multiple tabs, and flicking between different stores just to try to find the best match and price. Making the purchase itself may require even more steps, including creating an account and signing up for a mailing list.


“That fragmentation, fundamentally…is driven by the challenge to aggregate different products together,” Vosper said.


There are 116 offices of one nonprofit organization that issues such barcodes around the world. That means that a brand or retailer in one country may register a product catalog to sell on Amazon or run a Google ad and a reseller of that brand in another country might be doing the exact same thing using a different classification. For example, different sizes or colors of the same shoe may each be classified with different barcodes.


aisle 3's value proposition to customers: save time shopping online. And the value proposition to merchants is about spending less money with Google.


After working at Amazon, Vosper went to a price comparison startup that was also trying to tackle these problems, but the company ran out of money, triggering an "aha moment" for Vosper and his co-founder: “If everyone is looking at barcode numbers as the marker, then let’s try to look at something else instead because that didn’t work,” he thought.


aisle 3 aims to flip that model. “What we decided to do is we would take all the responsibility of the data and we would go out into the internet and understand and classify all of the unstructured information,” Vosper said. “Then we would pull that into our own system where we would classify and aggregate the information without ever seeing the product IDs or barcodes.”


Creating that kind of taxonomy requires a “bit of wizardry,” Vosper jokes, and to focus the bold ambition of aggregating the internet, the company is currently working in the sneaker category.


The community of sneakerheads helps give feedback, and the site is set up to list multiple retailers that sell a certain pair. The customer can then add them to their basket and purchase immediately.


aisle 3 is planning to move into other categories and has completed testing in the electronics and gaming categories. The company works on a performance basis and can integrate into affiliate networks, Vosper said.


“We give the customers the comfort of being a retailer that shows them all of their options,” Vosper said. “But we give advertisers the comfort of working with a publisher that does all the heavy lifting and actually sends them real sales from real humans, purely on a performance basis.”


Stream the full conversation here, courtesy of impact.com.


The partner marketing ecosystem speaker series is brought to you by Impact. As part of the series, Martech Record also spoke with Erica Yang and Adrian Quihuis of Real Hype Creative, Walter Haas of GIST and Jason Fairchild, CEO of tvScientific. You can read about those conversations or stream them here and here and here.


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