A conversation with our VP of Global Sales: Matt Thompson

Rakuten Ready

Posted by: Rakuten Ready / September 14, 2020

Matt Thompson is the Vice President of Global Sales at Rakuten Ready, where he is responsible for growing revenue by securing strategic partnerships. Matt has over a decade of experience leading enterprise sales teams at companies like Gigster, Slalom, and IBM. Matt holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Notre Dame.

Tell us about your role at Rakuten Ready?

I lead Global Sales for Rakuten Ready which focuses primarily on bringing our solutions to restaurants, grocers and retailers in North America. I started in Jan 2019 with a team of 2 and we have expanded to 10 allowing national coverage. We also have great Rakuten business development partners in Japan and Europe that I guide to grow those markets with our solutions.

What is the biggest challenge your team (or the company) is facing due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, our solution for curbside and in-store pickup has never been in more demand. On the other hand, many of the brands we partner with are just trying to survive. Fortunately, I have a very experienced, creative, and determined team. We’ve banded together to help each other move the ball forward and still secure some meaningful partnerships!

It has also been very rewarding because we are able to help guide numerous merchants who did not have a curbside program and help them thrive in these tough times. We also took these learnings and created a playbook. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our Contactless Playbook, where we reveal insights from our numerous years of experience helping customers power millions of order for pickup trips per week.

What has impressed you most about how merchants have responded to a crisis that has basically upended their business model?

I think every merchant probably had digital ordering for pickup on their roadmap either this year or in the future. COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown forced every single merchant to short circuit those plans. I was impressed with the “can do” spirit at the companies we engaged with as they rolled curbside programs- any way they could – physical signs written on cardboard, roped off parking spots, throwing people at the curbside challenge (before automation), etc.

Over time we have seen many customers realize for better or worse that order for pickup is here to stay as consumer purchasing patterns have permanently shifted. We are excited that so many have moved to the next phase of maturity, leveraging solutions such as ARRIVE to bring predictive arrival technology into their stores.

What is the one trend happening now that you think will continue into the future?

I firmly believe that order for pickup is here to stay. As a percentage of orders, it will remain at least 2x pre-COVID levels. It’s a two-sided coin… 1) Consumers have gotten used to convenient, safe and seamless pickup experiences. 2) Merchants have upped their game and many have worked through the people, process, and technology change needed to consistently deliver for their customers from here forward. We see order for pickup only growing as an opportunity in the future.

How will the Rakuten Ready ARRIVE platform help brands navigate 2020 and beyond?

We have a theme that ‘we are here to help’ and the whole Rakuten Ready team has carried that spirit throughout 2020. It starts with helping brands leverage our ARRIVE platform to power predictive arrival alerts so food, groceries, and goods are ready right when customers arrive.

Our team has also partnered with our sister companies within Rakuten, such as Rewards, to offer creative performance-based marketing programs to drive awareness and transactions through our powerful Rakuten Rewards platform. We’ve already seen great results with these programs and expect many merchants to move their marketing dollars to more effective, performance-based programs like Rakuten Rewards.

When you feel comfortable traveling with the family again, where is the first place you plan to go?

We are already talking about taking the kids to Europe in a couple of years. That has us thinking positively that we will get to the other side of this pandemic and hopefully soon. In the meantime, we likely will continue to take roadtrips in the western US and work on planning a trip to Hawaii when the time is right.

I also cannot wait to be able to travel again and get in front of our customers and prospects. That is definitely one of the most rewarding aspects of my role and one that I’m confident we’ll move back to post COVID-19 (Zoom calls just don’t cut it!). I remain hopeful 2021 will bring a heavy dose of travel and “back to normal.”