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Faire: Enabling small companies to compete and win against big-box retailers

About Faire

Faire is an online B2B marketplace that connects millions of small and midsize retailers and wholesalers across 15,000 global cities so that they can compete against big-box chains—even if they are sole proprietors and small-town brick-and-mortar shops. Since its founding in 2017, Faire has enjoyed 3x year-over-year growth. In 2021, its annual sales volume reached more than $1 billion.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: San Francisco, CA
Products: Google Cloud, Looker

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More than 150 sales representatives use Looker to deliver personalized, competitive insights in minutes to the small global retailers and wholesalers on Faire's B2B marketplace—so they can thrive.

Google Cloud results

  • Enables insights in minutes rather than days or weeks
  • Boosts sales efficiency via self-service analytics
  • Improves customer service levels

There's a universal appeal in helping those who have the odds stacked against them. There's also strength in numbers. Faire took both of these principles and built a B2B online marketplace that's growing so rapidly that it's capturing global attention, ranking #1 among retail startups on Fast Company's 2022 list of the World's Most Innovative Companies.

Faire enables independent retailers in North America, Europe, and Australia to compete against big-box chains by providing an ecommerce platform, connections, and personalized data insights. From the Faire marketplace, 600,000 independent retailers can purchase products from 85,000 wholesale brands. At any time, Faire's brands can also engage their service representatives for data insights and guidance in driving growth. Common customer requests include the number of retailers buying a particular type of product, the number of brands in that product category in a given price-point range, sales growth in that category, and the average sales volume per month for similar brands. "Our data and the insights we provide are our most powerful competitive advantages," says Venkataraghaven Gandur, Director of Data Infrastructure at Faire. "We leverage both to help our brands and retailers optimize their businesses."

"Our people are so happy that they can use Looker to get the data they need without asking anyone for help, and we've also reduced a lot of the operational burden that was on our analytics team."

Venkataraghaven Gandur, Director of Data Infrastructure, Faire

Timing is everything, so what's the bottleneck?

Insights are most helpful when they're on-demand and accurate. However, exponential marketplace growth pushed Faire's existing business intelligence processes to the limit. "The need for additional data comes up on nearly 80 percent of our customer calls, and half the time our salespeople didn’t previously have access to the information to answer questions," Gandur says. "Telling a customer that it's going to take a few days or weeks to get back to them is unacceptable." Not only do slow response times lower service levels for existing customers but they also jeopardize new business.

Faire's data scientists were using a cloud database and a third-party data visualization app to extract and serve up custom insights. These tools require SQL skills that most business employees lack, making self-service analysis impossible. And because insight requests were always managed as one-off projects, two data scientists could build similar reports but use different datasets or calculations, resulting in different sources of truth.

Democratizing data access and analytics in five weeks

To provide customers with faster data-based answers, fuel ongoing growth, and ease the burden of analytics team members, Faire deployed Looker from Google Cloud. With it, Faire could democratize data access and empower sales teams with self-service analytics by giving them one point of access to a shared data platform, real-time dashboards, and easy-to-use tools for custom data analysis.

Ben Thompson, Staff Analytics Engineer at Faire, says, "It's one thing to say we have 85,000 brands, but prospective retailers want to know what's in it for them if they sign up for Faire. Insights from Looker help us quickly and dynamically respond to that question based on data."

Other reasons for choosing Looker was for fast time to value and the ability to quickly deploy and evolve the data services Faire envisioned. Thompson says, "In about five weeks, we had built a basic Looker data model and the sales team was using our initial dashboards." This involved:

  • Connecting Faire's cloud database to Looker
  • Using Looker's semantic model, LookML, to map all the generic entities in the cloud database's 13,000 tables and 20,000 branches
  • Identifying datasets with labels easily understood by business users

To accelerate development and adoption, Faire worked with Looker's Professional Services. Thompson says, "As the sole developer on the Looker implementation, it was helpful to partner with an expert who could provide a gut check on direction and share a ton of product knowledge. Our consultant also held an onboarding class for our end users so I didn't have to. The syllabus was well vetted, and our people found it super valuable."

Answering questions in minutes rather than days or weeks

Now when salespeople talk to prospects, instead of saying, "I'll have to get back to you," they can quickly answer most questions. To guide conversations with real-time data, salespeople start by asking prospects basic questions about their location and product categories. They then use a Looker dashboard to immediately display useful insights such as demand for the types of products the prospect sells, price-point averages, target markets, and projected demographics. So, for example, a salesperson might see that a prospective customer has more of an opportunity to sell in Canada given market fit, than in the U.S.

Having data-driven conversations early in the pipeline increases the number of retailers and brands on the marketplace, and it improves employee experience. Gandur says, "Our people are so happy that they can use Looker to get the data they need without asking anyone for help, and we’ve also reduced a lot of the operational burden that was on our analytics team."

"Our business people can build their own dashboards by mixing and matching the data entities they need to answer questions, which is something that wasn't possible before."

Ben Thompson, Staff Analytics Engineer, Faire

Proactive help for customers who are struggling

Previously Faire's salespeople, who manage a range of accounts, had limited insight into their customers' sales challenges. "With insights from Looker, our representatives now proactively contact customers who need help, which is a competitive differentiator," says Gandur.

Salespeople also use a Looker dashboard to triage customer issues. They can see how the customer's sales stack up against other companies in their market and identify what successful companies are doing differently, such as offering lower minimum-order requirements or spending time on building referrals.

"Most of our competitors only have comparative data for their town or maybe neighboring cities," explains Gandur. "Our salespeople can bring them a wealth of data from our marketplace as well as from the internet by using Looker. So we might tell them, 'The product you are producing is carried by 1,000 retailers across North America and Europe. They are selling it between the price point of X to Y, but your price is Z, which is much higher. This pricing disparity is probably why your sales are low.'"

Customers and salespeople aren't the only ones benefiting from Looker. Gandur explains, "Marketers might use Looker insights in an email campaign for prospects, saying, 'Our stationery brands generally see a 30 percent increase in revenue ahead of Mother's and Father's Day. Join Faire now!'"

Non-technical users can create their own custom dashboards

From Looker, sales staff can create their own dashboard by selecting the names of the datasets they want to include from a menu. One salesperson created a dashboard that provides SEO insights for customers including the keywords people search for in the Faire marketplace. By creating this dashboard, the salesperson can help wholesalers understand how they can modify product names and descriptions to increase traffic to their marketplace site.

"Looker is much more of a drag-and-drop tool with a UI that's written in business language, so it's simple and usable by anyone," Thompson explains. "Our business people can build their own dashboards by mixing and matching the data entities they need to answer questions, which is something that wasn't possible before."

More referrals, more credits, more sales

Faire's brands can earn rewards points—and facilitate win-win opportunities for all parties—by inviting retailers that they have existing relationships with to join the Faire marketplace through the Faire Direct referral program. Previously, sales teams had to ask customers if they were using the program and how it was going for them. Today, they can get answers to these questions from a Looker dashboard.

"Faire Direct used to be a black box for sales teams but now they dig into the data," explains Thompson. "They can see who is just one or two retailers away from earning rewards points, whom they should congratulate for bringing retailers to the marketplace, or who isn’t taking advantage of this program. It's just one more way we are driving the best possible experience for our users."

"With insights from Looker, our representatives now proactively contact customers who need help, which is a competitive differentiator."

Venkataraghaven Gandur, Director of Data Infrastructure, Faire

Thriving on a global scale

What's next for Faire? Its team now has more insights and customer awareness to better answer questions and collaboratively help more small businesses succeed. "Understanding how our business is working, what our pain points are, and where we need to focus effort is easier to do at scale when you can look at the data," says Gandur. "Now that we have Looker, our people can access the data they need, when they need it, to help customers make better decisions—and we don't have to build an army of data scientists to meet their requirements."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Faire

Faire is an online B2B marketplace that connects millions of small and midsize retailers and wholesalers across 15,000 global cities so that they can compete against big-box chains—even if they are sole proprietors and small-town brick-and-mortar shops. Since its founding in 2017, Faire has enjoyed 3x year-over-year growth. In 2021, its annual sales volume reached more than $1 billion.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: San Francisco, CA