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How Hubba is making a dent in retail buying

 

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If you’ve ever walked into a tiny store, mom-and-pop shop, or cool chic boutique and seen the amazing and unique products they carry, you’ve probably interacted with Hubba at some point.

Taking a funny name to the retail buying world, Hubba is a marketplace that connects brands with retailers – think of it like Airbnb for bespoke wholesale goods. The platform right now focuses on high-quality, rarer items like vegan good, gourmet food, keto, natural skincare, and bespoke baby products, but the secret sauce is in what the platform can do for buyers.

 

How it works for retailers

If you’re in the retail world and own a store or small chain (think five stores or fewer), then you can sign up for a Hubba account like you would an Amazon account. Once accepted (Hubba manually vets everyone on their platform), you simply… go shopping.

A retailer on Hubba looks for goods the same way a traveller looks for accommodation or experiences on Airbnb. You can check trending products, look at top sellers, and more.

According to founder and CEO Ben Zifkin, though, the best feature is the recommendation engine. Behind the scenes, Hubba is a data analytics machine that gets better and better at helping retailers choose the right items for their stores.

 

How it works for brands and suppliers

Brands and suppliers have to apply to join the Hubba community. In order to be accepted, your goods must fit within Hubba’s categories including vegan food, baby, or others. Once accepted, you fill out your “store”, just like an entrepreneur might load all their products onto a Shopify store.

With your products loaded up onto Hubba, the recommendation engine does much of the work for you, showcasing products to retailers who are likely to buy them.

 

Pricing

Pricing on Hubba is free. For everyone. Forever. Similar to Wave, the platform offers its core functionality – connecting buyers and sellers – along with powerful analytics, all for free.

Hubba only makes money when transactions occur on the platform, taking a standard 10% fee on the wholesale price. In this case, only the brands pay – a retailer never pays to use Hubba.

What’s particularly interesting for suppliers and brands, said Zifkin, is that the fees are significantly lower. He said that many distributors charge up to 30% of wholesale price as a fee, so Hubba’s model could mean more profits for brands.

The pricing is made even more generous for people who help to grow the community. For example, you don’t pay fees on transactions made between anyone you bring onto the platform. So if you’re a retailer, you can welcome your entire supplier network onto Hubba and neither of you will pay a fee. If you’re a supplier, you can bring all your retailers onto Hubba with no fees either.

Zifkin said that the generous pricing model is done for two reasons:
 

  1. To build community. He wants to encourage all bespoke retailers and brands to be on Hubba.
  2. To encourage commerce. When a retailer or brand is brought onto Hubba, they are more likely to check out other things they may end up buying (or sell to other brands). So while Hubba makes no money on the original relationship, having them on board naturally develops more relationships, which lead to more revenue.

 

Right now the company does not offer any services, but Zifkin said they are looking into potentially offering services around:

 

  • Distribution help
  • Cash flow management
  • Group buying
  • Loyalty programs

 

Where it’s available

Right now, Hubba is only available in the United States. This came after a pivot in the company. They were previously a wide-open marketplace (like a “LinkedIn for brands” as one Forbes article called it), but that led to a large global footprint but limited impact, said Zifkin.

He likened the choice to focus on bespoke products in the US to Alibaba. He said that Alibaba is about welcoming any retailer or brand into Eastern / Asian markets. In contrast, Hubba is about welcoming bespoke retailers and brands into Western / North American markets.

With that mission, it’s no surprise that Hubba will be expanding into Canada. Zifkin shared that the company plans to announce expansion into Canada in the next couple months, a huge win for the company – not the least of which is because Hubba was founded and is still headquartered in Toronto.

 

The Hubba platform grows

If you’ve never heard of Hubba, you’re forgiven. So much of the commerce world is front-facing, with big players like Amazon, Shopify, and WalMart competing for the $5 trillion dollar global retail market.