HUBBA working

 To Change the Way Retailers, Brand Owners Connect

When Phil Chang, product strategy expert at Hubba, a cutting-edge, community-building-commerce firm connecting product designers, manufacturers and retailers, speaks to attendees at SuperZoo next month, he’ll be focusing on email marketing and ecommerce tips – but Hubba is his real passion.

Hubba (hubba.com), based in Toronto, started five years ago as a company promoting itself as a content-storage platform. There were about six employees at the time, including Chang, a veteran of retail having worked at Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Pfizer and Target.

New Opportunities

The idea, Chang explained, was that Hubba would be a “content platform for a brands to be able to share information uniformly across a universe, if you will. You could take anything small like a widget all the way up to Nike, and put all that information in Hubba and share it with as many people as possible.”

But Hubba’s core team saw a different opportunity emerge very every on.

“What we realized was everybody hates content, even though they all need it,” Chang explained. “The problem they (brand owners and manufacturers) really couldn’t solve was being able to find new partners and being able to talk to them reliably.

“Probably a lot of your small, medium gift shop owners and readers have that problem, right – either they can’t find the brands they are looking for, or they can’t find their reliable counterpart,” he added. “They wind up catching a gray market person, or they just can’t keep up with the trends because they have to keep going to trade shows to find great new products, and find the owners to be able to do business with.”

“We decided we’d back into the content problem by creating something where retailers could go in and discover new products all the time,” he said.

Hubba’s website refers to the company as is the holy grail for brands, retailers and product influencers to present and share product information accurately.

Hubba allows its participants to update product information once and share it everywhere. Participants add their product content – everything from images to technical specifications – and POOF, they are participating in the next generation of commerce.

The Hubba network also allows participants to connect with key industry people directly, and empowers them to bring their career and business goals forward.

Hubba has participants now across the globe – 60% in the U.S., 10% Canada and the remainder in Europe and Asia, Chang said.

It’s free to participate either as a supplier or buyer, he explained. The company is venture funded through Goldman Sachs, and today has grown to 60 employees.

“We do have a paid service for the very little brands that are learning how to work with retailers which allows our experts to make them pro-looking,” Chang explained.

So, making money is something the company has on its radar, he said, but not the top priority at the moment.

“Big picture – we hope Hubba becomes a connection point for everybody in retail,” he said. “A brand wner today might sell to company ABC, but eventually the owner is going to want to sell his widget to everyone from A to Z. We want him to invite these people on Hubba to join him, see his products, and then do some business in Hubba.

“Hopefully, we can eliminate some of the retailers’ mechanics of listing products and bringing them into their system,” Chang added. “When you have a platform like this where people are connecting and doing business, the community starts to find ways to use Hubba for its own kind of use.”

Trade Show Alternative

Chang said a lot of buyers don’t have an organized way of finding things beyond trade shows.

“Some of the most unique stories you hear … “How’d you find that hot widget… my brother’s, sister’s daughter’s son had it. I knew it was going to be a big hit in my store, but I had to go read the label on package, and track that person down,’” he said.

“Hubba allows you to be in that place where a buyer can literally curate thousands of items at any given time,” Chang added. “Buyers can sort them in the list, sort them by season, or by buying corridors and go in and reliably start the process by looking at product profiles, UPCs, dimensions, etc.”

Hubba allows buyers to educate themselves much faster regarding potential products for their stores.

Challenges Remain

Of course, some challenges to the model still exist. There’s the inability for buyers to actually physically examine products “we havn’t figured that one out yet,” he said, plus the proliferation of brand knock offs, which forces Hubba to be constantly on the lookout for suppliers selling Nike (as an example) branded products that are not really Nike.

Plus there is the need to educate suppliers who view Hubba as a social media site, rather than a place to conduct commerce.

“One customer collected a whole bunch of likes, follows and then told us they were a little disappointed,” he explained. “They said we keep collecting followers and connections but we’re not getting any business out of it.

“We had to remind them that if they have a like or follow, that is their lead list, that is their conversion list. They should be reaching out to those people.”