WhyteSpyder's Eric Howerton: Function of Retail Evolution Is Disruption of Retail Tradition

WhyteSpyder's Eric Howerton: Function of Retail Evolution Is Disruption of Retail Tradition
Eric Howerton
Co-founder, Co-owner and Chief Growth Officer of SKU Ninja + WhyteSpyder of Springdale
On Aug. 26, Eric Howerton became chief growth officer of the e-commerce technology firm he co-founded, SKU Ninja + WhyteSpyder of Springdale. He had served for nearly 10 years as its chief executive officer.

Prior to that, Howerton was chief operating officer of the Zweig Group, an architectural and engineering consulting firm based in Fayetteville; founded and served as president of consulting company Now Creative Inc.; and was publisher of Get Out magazine. He earned his bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

SKU Ninja + WhyteSpyder was one of three small “disruptive” firms invited this year to the Consumer Goods Forum’s annual Global Summit in Vancouver, Canada.

Why did you step down as CEO on Aug. 26, and what will you do as chief growth officer?

Really, I didn’t step down; I stepped aside.

We always urge our team members to recognize and focus on their strengths, so I should be asking the same of myself. J.S. [Bull, the new CEO] has great skill in organizational structure, strategic planning and human resource management that will enable our company to reach its maximum potential.

As chief growth officer, I’ll be doing what I’ve always loved: overseeing marketing, business development, customer success and strategy, and building our systems and processes to have efficient and scalable growth.

What exactly is a “disruptive” tech firm, and do you ever think about the business models being disrupted and the people affected?

The business itself is constantly evolving, driven by the shopper. These changes happen almost daily, as the technology shoppers prefer evolves. If you’re asking whether our business model could be disrupted by another company, yes! That’s why it’s so important to stay in first place in terms of disruption.

What is WhyteSpyder disrupting?

We’re disrupting tradition, patterns and passivity in the e-commerce industry and retail as a whole.

Any time an industry is just coasting, there is an opportunity for disruption to bring in a new wave of activity and new ways to do things. That applies to the retail industry in the way we go about helping shoppers discover and purchase products. It’s essential for suppliers and retailers to know when, where and how shoppers are shopping.

What would it most surprise retailers to learn about consumer behavior?

It’s amazing how straightforward and unsophisticated shoppers are when searching online, and the products and brands they’re looking for still aren’t meeting their needs. Suppliers and retailers are completely missing the boat when it comes to communicating with shoppers online and in the store.

What are the biggest mistakes retailers make online?

They don’t give robots or humans the information they need to find their products via search engines. It’s all about not making the shoppers think. When Amazon comes in and allows shoppers to find and transact without thinking about how, it steals market share.

What is trending in e-commerce these days?

We don’t focus on trends; we focus on behavior that’s consistent and timeless. Humans want information, they want the most recent and factual truth, and they want to get it as quickly and easily as possible. One of the issues in our industry is looking for trends, without finding the root cause.