5 Minutes With Ciaran Bollard, CEO, Kooomo

Op-ed

Tell us about Kooomo and your role within the company

Since the year 2000, we’ve been delivering successful digital commerce solutions to our customers around the world. Kooomo was spun out of our sister company, Zerogrey, a managed service digital commerce agency.

Through their expertise, Zerogrey’s eCommerce managers built an eCommerce platform that would seamlessly connect all sales channels, helping them to manage online stores while maximising sales at the same time.

As a result, Kooomo became a separate company in 2015, has powered over 1 billion transactions through the platform and been recognised by Gartner every year since then. We continue to work with world-renowned medium to large enterprise businesses to increase revenue by an average of 20%.

I joined the team as CEO just over 4 years ago now. I had researched the market and chose to join Kooomo due to the incredible platform that was created and the depth in features. My role is to work with the team, our customers, partners and advisors to accelerate our growth and respond to the future needs of same.

Amidst COVID, retail has matured by 5 years or more – for the good and bad. One thing that is really clear is the need for us to deliver solutions that can be implemented within weeks, that have a very low cost to set up and to facilitate the quick switching of customers from last generation platforms in the market.  The market doesn’t want a 6-month implementation timeline or costs of hundreds of thousands to implement an enterprise solution. It’s challenging but we are now implementing new eCommerce sites within weeks instead of months which is incredible given the complexity in this market.

What defines your way of doing business?

My motto has always been “people buy from people” and I sometimes think people forget that a robust, person-to-person relationship, built on trust is one of the most important aspects of modern business development.  Most of our customers stay at least 5 years with us and we have a very low churn rate and I believe this is due to the experience of the team and the relationships we build.

I’m very much a people-orientated business person and I’m very passionate about human interaction, which I try to ensure is reflected across the culture of our organisation. Whether it’s staff, customers, or people you meet in your life, you should always treat everyone with respect. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re the CEO or the cleaner, it’s about compassion, esteem, and decency.

How would you describe your leadership style through the pandemic?

Similar to the way I conduct business as usual – emphasising respect, compassion, and flexibility. We closed the office and implemented working from home immediately when the first measures were put in place. Since then, I’ve strived to keep morale up, have video meetings as much as possible, and placed a great amount of trust in my teams to continue working as hard as they would in the office – and they have not let me down. We’ve also managed to have a few fun evenings playing games online together and having a few drinks.  We are keen to resume normality, however, everyone’s personal situation is different and you need to listen to people’s reservations. When it’s safe to do so we’ll reunite in our head office, with the correct measures in place and we will soon start the process of returning to the office on a phased basis.

How did the prospect of waiving fees come about and just how quickly were you able to implement it?

Working in the industry, we absolutely felt compelled to help retailers – so as soon as governments announced funding support schemes, we leapt at the chance to play our part. We made this decision to help support retailers and ensure that they could come out on the other side of this.  We all must help each other out in these trying times and accelerating eCommerce initiatives is a great way to kick-start trade and future proof your business. In particular, we have seen a big interest in Click and Collect and Omnichannel solutions to help kick start trade and footfall in stores.

We normally operate on a revenue-share model once a merchant is set up and obviously, through this scheme, we will waive setup fees that on average consist of about €40,000. The only cost to the retailer is a fixed monthly fee or the revenue share mentioned above on goods sold. If there are integrations required then this would be quoted on a client by client basis. But with 200 1-Click partners, for a lot of customers, this is not necessary.

How do Kooomo’s services differ from its main competitors?

International: The idea of Kooomo as a SaaS product came about when we discovered that there was no tool that could deal with the complexity of trading across European markets – dealing with multiple languages, currencies, VAT rates, varying product, and promotional targeting and the complexity of fashion as a vertical, with new catalogues every season.

Rapid Goto Market – our timelines for launch and affordability.

Connecting all Sales Channels: Kooomo also helps retailers to turbo-boost their sales by connecting all sales channels under a single, highly advanced eCommerce platform. We’re using next-generation technology to ensure we can future proof all aspects of the online Customer Experience (CX). We offer a full enterprise solution that is affordable and gives retailers quick time to market, with access to over 200 1-Click partners, enabling them to future proof their eCommerce solutions.

So in a nutshell what sets us apart from our competitors is an ability to ease international trading and the flexibility of the platform to grow and change in direct relation with the needs of our customers.

Our experience: We are the trusted partner for hundreds of customers now, who’s needs vary from simple online stores to full Omnichannel solutions that are fully integrated with business systems and everything in between. It’s an exciting time for digital commerce and engaging with our customers to support them on this journey is what we know and love.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your job?

In terms of challenges, we did have many in the beginning. Initially, we experienced internal and external disbelief in our own product and solution, but I wanted to prove the platform had the power to deliver solutions for all customers; medium and small. The only way of proving that was to go out and prove it, which we did. We won lots of new customers in new territories like Morrisons, Avoca, Butlers Chocolates, Umbro, Fireplace products – showing different sizes of customers and different verticals.

As a start-up, we also had to go up against giant brands who were well known. However, because the platform was so compelling, we have managed to breakthrough relatively easily. Once customers played with our solution, we won the business in 9 out of 10 situations. Delivering fantastic results and proven case studies have also helped. Our challenge is to get in front of more of those customers through market awareness and peer to peer knowledge sharing with our customers.

Struggles go hand in hand with starting up a business, which makes the rewards we’ve earned feel all that more special. Our technology being benchmarked by the Gartner Magic Quadrant in 2016 was a big deal to us. To have our technology recognised on a worldwide stage like Gartner was invaluable for the company and played a big part in us winning reputable customers like Morrisons. So that was really our first success story.

Breaking into the UK and Irish markets as relatively new markets was also a big win as we are more established in Southern Europe. Going into a new market like the UK (one of the most mature eCommerce markets in the world) without being known and winning customers like Morrisons, Fireplace, Avoca, Umbro, Butler’s Chocolates has really helped us build a strong foundation to drive growth. We have to deliver results for our customers and I’m also proud to say all of our customers are growing and are very supportive in sharing their success on the Kooomo platform and that really helps. So thank you to all our customers.

How has Kooomo helped retailers overcome the pandemic and what will it’s role be in the future of retail?

In terms of the pandemic, we’ve obviously taken the measure to waive set our set-up fees for new customers, but we’ve also worked with existing customers, taking any of their struggles into account and made adjustments where necessary so they can continue trading on our platform.

In terms of our role in the future of retail, we strive to innovate at Kooomo – as is evident with some of the incredible success stories that are free to view on our website.

Our role is to help support retailers transition traditional brick and mortar retailers and brands to an integrated offline and online solution that caters for customers amidst and post COVID. We believe Kooomo will play a massive part in sustained retail recovery and growth. The platform is about choice and solutions for customers – offering them flexibility, an aspect that has shifted from a desire to requirement. Expanding internationally through digital sales channels (web stores, marketplaces, social media) and building a 360 degrees omnichannel presence are all critical factors in future-proofing business post-COVID and Brexit.

So while these are challenging times, it’s clear from the growth in online trade that the appetite to engage in digital commerce solutions has accelerated to a new level.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector at the moment?

Lockdown measures are being eased and many stores can begin to reopen, which is great! But I don’t think we have yet to feel the aftershock of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is good and bad news. I think the high street will suffer more losses and in fact as we are seeing the loss of some household names in retail. However, there are plenty of opportunities to future proof your business and create robust solutions that will appeal to the online shopper not just in the UK and Ireland but across the world. Click and collect will become a key aspect of every retailer’s strategy (if not already) which will reduce congestion in-stores with dedicated pick-up points.

Margins will be tighter than before as footfall is limited with social distancing so it’s critical to look at all ways you can maximise sales through all sales channels in-store, online store, marketplaces, click and collect, social etc. We now that multi-channel buyers are more loyal and spend more and that is exactly what we need now is for customers to dig deep and get out and start spending again.

As restrictions lift and the new normal sets in, will eCommerce take over as the primary engine for trade?

I think it already is for lots of verticals there are pureplay brands and retailers. Amidst COVID and Brexit. I think this is now been accelerated by 5 to 10 years for traditional brick and mortar stores.  There is for sure a shift to having flagship stores as opposed to a network of stores covering all locations.

What’s interesting is that Two in five UK shoppers say that they will make more frequent online purchases once lockdown ends. eCommerce habits tend to form during naturally busy periods, such as Christmas, and once those habits already have momentum, they are unlikely to subside.

Retailers who haven’t already created a digital branch of their brand should consider doing so as soon as possible, as it may be the answer to, not only ensuring their longevity but driving customers back to their physical stores as restrictions ease – I think the outlook looks positive for both physical and digital shopping, but the likelihood of one existing without the other continues to shrink.

Non-essential retailers have clearly been one of the worst-hit by the pandemic –  but how has the B2B industry been affected and how do you see eCommerce being used between businesses in the future?

B2B is suffering as is most of the supply chain. However, B2B is one of the highest growth areas in eCommerce. Wholesale, dropshipping, supplier engagement and automation – all of these processes using B2B are starting to become the norm as OPEX costs are squeezed further. Synchronising stock for all channels can ensure you minimise waste and increase the efficiency of the business processes linked to all sales channels.

B2B opportunities have dramatically increased in our pipeline of business for new customers but also with a big percentage of our existing customers taking advantage of the above.

How is the future looking for Kooomo?

We’re very excited about what is to come for Kooomo – despite recent events, there’s still a lot we’re looking forward to and planning for over the next few years. We will be opening a UK office later this year and expanding into new markets and opening more offices in France and Germany.  We are also injecting growth capital in order to accelerate the company while creating new strategic partnerships to help fuel that growth. We are excited to expand our staff, board and management team – We’re also hoping to move into a new office for our headquarters in Dublin. It’s an exciting time for eCommerce and for us all who work in this sector.

Learn more about Kooomo here.

 

 

Op-ed

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