I spoke to the founders of Clarinova a couple of weeks ago and last week the company formally put out a press release announcing its existence. As I heard them describe their relationships with product makers and brands and their efforts to build websites and manage them for independent local retailers I was strongly reminded of StepUp, which sold several years ago to Intuit for $60 million.
Clarinova builds microsites for individual brands and their corresponding local retailers. Effectively the firm tries to help people locate places to buy products offline, but there are some interesting other angles as well.
Here’s how Clarinova describes itself:
Clarinova is a collaborative marketing company working with manufacturers and retailers to grow and satisfy market demand for manufacturers’ products by creating a powerful online presence. Clarinova bridges the gap between creating a brand and making certain it is well-represented on retail websites and across the Internet.
On a standalone basis or in conjunction with your existing Web marketing staff, Clarinova adds greater efficiency to your operation by creating a systematic path for your brand to increase visibility rapidly across the Web. We help retailers and consumers find you—on shopping websites, search engines, comparison engines, social shopping sites, and retail store websites. Clarinova’s Front Window platform advances your online branding efforts so you can focus on the rest of your job.
Because this is in large part about the brands and manufacturers, only a single brand is showcased on any individual store microsite. Consequently a store that carries multiple lines and brands would thus have multiple microsites (and all that implies for SEO). Here are examples of three different actual microsites for three brands all sold at the same store:
Clarinova said that its one-brand-per-site approach wasn’t a problem for the independent local retailers, who appreciated the promotion. Furthermore, the company believes that it has tapped into a large retail segment that represents 80,000 manufacturers and distributors, their 270,000 retailers, and $76B in US retail sales.”
Because the company works directly with brands/manufacturers, Clarinova also has some decent visibility on in-stock items at independent retailers, though the systems (or lack thereof) in use make real-time inventory determination a problem. But because the company knows when and how many products have shipped and generally how long they remain in stores, there is some probabilistic calculation that could go on. But real-time inventory is not the thrust of the company’s immediate efforts.
Clarinova is working with brands to help consumers, using search engines, find local stores where they can buy products. It’s quite a bit more involved and sophisticated than a pure store locator strategy. It doesn’t rely on the consumer finding the brand’s website and then finding the store in his or her area. It “syndicates” that information out through search to the broader Internet. And there’s lots of SEO value for both the stores and the brands here.
In terms of competition, there are general Web design firms and several companies (Krillion, Milo, NearbyNow, Google) working on real-time product inventory. And there are lots of firms providing local marketing services to local service businesses. But there isn’t anyone doing exactly the same thing that Clarinova is: working with manufacturers to bring small retailers online and connect buyers to their local stores.
It’s another example of the momentum building to help deliver consumers from “Web2Store.”
Related: Here’s Clarinova’s overview deck on SlideShare.