Written by – Marry D’souza
The businesses that make it big frequently have small beginnings. Such is the story of Market America Worldwide, which started as a thought and a vision and ultimately developed into a worldwide enterprise. Market America leads the digital shopping revolution by offering cutting-edge products and smooth, hassle-free services. In a digital age when the only borders are the limits of the imagination, this company is trying to make an impact by fusing creativity and technology.
SHOP.COM, the company’s award-winning global e-commerce site, provides premium-quality, market-driven products and services that today’s savvy shoppers are searching for. Consumers not only have access to thousands of Market America exclusive products, but they can turn each online shopping experience into an income opportunity by becoming a company distributor, known as an UnFranchise® Owner (UFO). Through the UnFranchise Business, the brainchild of Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM Founder, Chairman & CEO, JR Ridinger, UFOs have direct access to step-by-step business-building methods, marketing tools, key trainings — both in-person and online — technology and ongoing support to build their own businesses. For 30 years, the UnFranchise Business has created a paradigm shift in the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide searching for supplemental income. Today, Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM is recognized as a Top 100 global e-commerce company, leveraging its vast customer base to provide a best-in-class online shopping experience and a supplemental income opportunity.
The key to the UnFranchise Business model is the company’s ground-breaking Shopping Annuity® concept, which helps people convert their spending into earning; when customers spend on Market America partner websites, they get paid for it in Cashback. With an array of revolutionary businesses under its umbrella, Market America Worldwide is an industry-changing global enterprise that enables thousands of entrepreneurs and customers to build upon its rich legacy of success.
Let’s speak with JR Ridinger, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM and gain a deeper understanding of the company’s strategies and values:
Give us a brief overview of Market America, its mission and some aspects of its strong foothold in your industry.
JR Ridinger: Market America Worldwide is a global e-commerce and digital marketing company and owner of the award-winning e-commerce site SHOP.COM. Our business model helps empower entrepreneurs around the globe to own their own businesses. These entrepreneurs, or UnFranchise® Owners, follow our proven system to develop a supplemental income based on retail and everyday spending. SHOP.COM, the primary global shopping site powered by Market America Worldwide, boasts millions of savvy shoppers and has awarded more than $50 million in Cashback for consumers who have access to millions of products on SHOP.COM, including Market America Worldwide exclusive brands and thousands of top retail brands. We empower consumers by helping them leverage our collective buying power.
I started Market America along with my wife, Loren, in 1992. Since then, what began as a small home-based business has flourished and evolved into a global powerhouse, with operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Take us back to how the business started.
Loren Ridinger (Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM Co-Founder & Senior Executive Vice President): It was back in 1992, and I was pretty much fresh out of school, and I remember my husband, JR, saying that one day, people would buy their shoes, their clothing, their vitamins and their cosmetics online. I just thought that this was preposterous at the time, not because I didn’t believe it to be true but because most people didn’t have computers. But, together as a family, we did believe that JR’s idea would come true.
As a family, JR and I and my two brothers, Marc Ashley and Steve Ashley, decided to come up with what we would sell online. We didn’t realize that we would encounter so many people, in general, thinking we were crazy. Plenty of people wouldn’t sell our products because, at the time, who had customers online to sell it to in the first place? It was a real journey and one that no one would have believed at the time that anyone would ever embark on. But we did it and have been building on our success for 30 years now.
Describe your top-notch offerings that address the needs of your customer.
Steve Ashley: As the President & COO of SHOP.COM, I keep customers at the forefront of my thoughts and dedicate a great deal of time and effort to exploring distinctive and relevant ways to optimize our customers’ online experiences. We are constantly assessing and evaluating market trends and ever-shifting consumer demand. But regardless of these major trends, the success of any retail business (whether online or in-person) lies in the connection they form with their customers. SHOP.COM offers a unique, high-tech and high-touch approach that continually provides a superior online shopping experience for our customers to maintain this close customer connection. As an example of our high-tech approach, SHOP.COM offers incredible features like Cashback, a payment plan with no fees and no interest and the ability to pay with more than 10 types of cryptocurrency.
We also offer the “personal touch” that is all too often missing in online shopping by providing our customers with their own (human) Personal SHOP Consultant who can help answer their questions while also connecting them with the exact products they want to purchase. It’s the best of both worlds, which can save our online shoppers both time and money.
Another important aspect of our business is our world-class products. We offer a wide range of exclusive brands, and our customers play a big role in our product development cycle. We constantly assess their needs, questions, concerns, feedback and ideas to ultimately deliver better products and services while optimizing the customer experience on SHOP.COM. Customers drive our success, but they also contribute to our key decisions.
What makes Market America’s exclusive products preferred by your clientele over other similar products and brands?
JR Ridinger: When you say “clientele,” that’s a unique component of our business because we serve traditional retail customers and offer a business opportunity for those who are more entrepreneurially inclined. We offer valuable exclusive products that are fan favorites worldwide, including Isotonix® OPC-3®, which is known as the most powerful antioxidant supplement on the market today. Studies have shown OPCs (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) to be up to 20 times more powerful than vitamin C and 50 times more powerful than vitamin E in neutralizing free radicals.*
Among Market America’s exclusive brands, our Isotonix health supplement product line has been a consistent top seller for many years and is a big reason why we have such a large and loyal customer base. While our business is built on products, our people power sets us apart. It’s also because of this people power that we can source the best-in-class ingredients to offer superior products that, once manufactured and brought into our facilities, go through our Quality Assurance and Control Team, which confirms that each product meets the stringent standards we require to allow products to be made available for purchase on our various e-commerce sites.
I see us as a leader in online shopping and an opportunity-amplifier for entrepreneurs. We’re unique in that we serve the needs of both consumers and entrepreneurs, and I think this dynamic will only grow in importance as more and more people seek new opportunities for growth and development.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
From a business leadership perspective, what has been the impact of the pandemic on your industry/market?
Marc Ashley (President & COO of Market America Worldwide): I think the impact of the pandemic has stretched far beyond the headlines. We spent tens of millions of dollars to increase our staffing levels and our inventory levels — way beyond levels we have ever done before. So, if a product got caught up in a port or a manufacturer was delayed on a product, we had excess inventory on hand to cover for those issues. The pandemic has forced us to not only cultivate alternative supply chain options but it’s also forced everyone to analyze their businesses with the hopes of being able to better anticipate the problems and challenges just over the horizon. If the pandemic has taught us anything — it’s the importance of being adaptable and flexible. Being responsive to change is all about assessing and improving your protocols and processes, so you have the chance to actually improve how your business operates at its core.
From the start, our business and every Market America exclusive product that we make available to online shoppers worldwide have to offer a better quality of life. We do this by product sourcing in billion-dollar markets, using only best-in-class ingredients and verifying product efficacy and quality with the science and clinical studies to back it up. We use relevant and effective product delivery methods that meet the needs of today’s consumers and continuously research how and when it makes sense to take each current product to the next level — which is simply product evolution at work.
All of this, plus enabling UFOs the ability to provide product samples, introduce new products through a comprehensive marketing app, and so much more, has made Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM much more than a strong, profitable and successful company. Today, we are known as a caring, valued and ethical business focused on providing both a one-of-a-kind business opportunity for individuals interested in a supplemental income and the ultimate online resource to purchase the products and services consumers worldwide need and want most. What more can you ask for?
Describe the values that drive your organization.
Loren Ridinger: Our business is built on the simple idea that we can accomplish more together by working in harmony and cooperation than we can through competition. Our business is unique because we’ve cultivated a family atmosphere and mindset even though our business is spread out across the globe. Our business is driven by the goal of helping people improve their lives through opportunity and entrepreneurship. We’re driven by this common purpose we share, which strengthens our personal connections and has helped our business transform into a global community of entrepreneurs. As we build the business, we also build bonds with others. Those personal connections and relationships truly drive and motivate us to help one another achieve our full potential through entrepreneurship.
In what ways has your company given back to the community?
Marc Ashley: While our business has become a major player in the global e-commerce landscape, we’ve never lost sight of who we are or where we came from. Giving back to our communities has always been important for Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM, and we’re constantly seeking new ways to make a meaningful impact.
We were blessed and wanted to pay it forward by helping support the brave healthcare heroes who put their lives on the line every day to ensure society made it through the pandemic. Fortunately, we had a great opportunity to do exactly that by providing some tremendous care packages to frontline nurses and healthcare professionals in Greensboro, North Carolina. Just our way of saying thanks to these selfless heroes. Also on a continual basis, we partner with a multitude of non-profit organizations who are supplying the products and funds that people really need right now.
These types of efforts stretch far beyond our nation’s borders. In fact, our Market Taiwan team has helped play a major role with charities in numerous campaigns to give back. From blood drives to helping plant thousands of trees, our global family of entrepreneurs is constantly seeking different ways to give back and support our local communities — no matter where we are.
How would you define “disruptive” when it comes to business?
JR Ridinger: A disruptive business sees opportunities others overlook. To be truly disruptive, a business must improve the customer experience in a given industry, often unexpectedly or creatively. Disruption occurs when one business finds a way to improve the customer experience without setting itself back otherwise.
Whether it’s through emerging technologies or innovations from within, the companies and individuals who unlock new ways of improving the customer experience often make a big splash. For example, in the late ’80s, I foresaw a time when consumers would be connected to computers both at work and at home, using the internet to purchase the products and services that they were, at that time, purchasing at traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.
Provide some examples of how Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM is being disruptive in a way that helps to improve the e-commerce industry as well as improve the online shopping experience overall.
JR Ridinger: If you’re being disruptive to advance your business success as well as the customers and industry you serve, you’re obviously doing something right. Businesses disrupt other businesses by providing better solutions and delivering better customer experiences without compromising their missions or bottom lines. This sort of disruptive innovation provides a substantial benefit across the board and affects everyone because it forces other businesses to step up their game. In reality, disruptive businesses are a vital part of capitalism.
Businesses that discover how to capitalize on disruption can initiate paradigm shifts that can positively impact the industries they serve on a worldwide basis. We’ve done this in the online shopping industry — in e-commerce — since day one and through a variety of means. With our UnFranchise Business model that is “Built on Product and Powered by People,” we have grown our customer base by empowering entrepreneurs, who become our UnFranchise Owners, to build their businesses by using and selling Market America exclusive products. Following GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and stringent Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes, thousands of Market America’s exclusive products are made available to online shoppers worldwide every day.
Market America’s exclusive products represent a wide variety of popular categories that include health and wellness, cosmetics, skin care, personal care, weight management, jewelry, pet health and home care, just to name a few. Specifically, our well-recognized health supplements are backed by science and go through rigorous quality-assurance measures. This includes products that can only be purchased through Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM, including Isotonix OPC-3, which, as I mentioned before, is known to be the most powerful antioxidant supplement on the market today.
Additionally, because of our large customer base, which allows our tens of thousands of UnFranchise Owners the ability to sell products worldwide, these UnFranchise Owners, their customers and millions of online shoppers are often able to benefit from exclusive offers and promotions that Partner Stores offer for their well-known branded products and services.
Not only is Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM able to provide a multitude of premium products and services, but we continue to disrupt the e-commerce industry by offering a customized marketing app that gives our UnFranchise Owners the ability to develop and access their customer bases, customize messaging while sending product samples, receive notifications each time one of their customers opens an email and so much more.
We also partner with other industry leaders, providing valuable and relevant third-party technologies, including Sezzle, a financial technology company and highest-rated “buy now, pay later” online payment provider that allows online shoppers to buy what they need now and pay for it over six weeks with no interest and no fees. Another valuable third-party partnership comes from SHOP LIVE, a feature within the company’s UnFranchise Marketing App. This powerful interactive livestream e-commerce application allows viewers to engage directly with UFOs during streaming sessions through clickable in-video icons to buy products, receive additional product information, set up appointments, and other customizable interactive features that allow UFOs to grow their businesses. There’s even an attribution feature that rewards UFOs who share the SHOP LIVE invitation with their current and potential customers.
After 30 years of running a successful company that helps UnFranchise Owners build successful businesses while also allowing online shoppers access to premium and relevant products they want and need regularly, we’re confident we’re doing things right and positively impacting the quality of people’s lives.