CEO of Scurri, Rory O’Connor, explains how getting market traction with online merchants in the UK required ‘being on the ground’
Clichés abound in business: great leadership is about walking the walk. Success in social media marketing comes from living the brand. The reasons why they have become clichés is that they contain more than a grain of truth…and textbook advice on success in international markets is no different. Pundits, rightly, expound the need to know the customer, be there on the ground and to burn shoe leather.
Founder and CEO of Scurri, Rory O’Connor, has done all that and more to get market traction in the UK. With headquarters in Wexford, Scurri offers a single platform for online merchants to prepare, despatch and track all of their shipments to customers, regardless of the carrier they choose.
“There was no question but Scurri had to be in the UK,” says O’Connor. In value terms, it’s the third biggest e-commerce market globally, behind China and the US. More than that, the UK has the highest proportion of online compared to total retail sales at 13 per cent, and, with players like Amazon, it’s seen as a cradle of innovation for the industry.
Delivering on Brand Promises
But with the cost of failed deliveries in the UK already starting to nudge towards £1bn per year, there is still a lot of scope for innovation and service improvement to avoid bottlenecks and damaged reputations… and this is where Scurri comes in.
Integrating seamlessly into existing order processes and fulfilment software, the Scurri platform promises to manage merchants’ delivery partners to effectively deliver on brand promises and drive customer loyalty.
Customers include Amazon, VisionDirect, Argos, eBay, Asos, Achica and Oxendales, as well as most of the major delivery integrators – RoyalMail, DHL, DPD and Fastway. Signing up industry innovator Zara proved to be a crucial turning point for the company, but it wasn’t always like this. O’Connor initially tried to break into the market by flying in and out. “I’d book a meeting in advance, book the flights, then something would crop up, and I’d be left walking around London with nothing to do,” he recalls.
Prising Open the UK Market
Feeling he was getting nowhere fast, he rented an apartment in London and got set up with a desk at a tech hub within a matter of hours. Initially the plan was to stay for three months, but O’Connor ended up based in London on an intensive basis for six to nine months. Only now, after “three days a week, every week” for the past couple of years, he feels he’s in a position where he can pull back.
To break into networks, he says that initially he went to “every dog fight: breakfast meetings, e-commerce trade shows. I joined networks, went for beers. I was over there on my own, so there was nothing else to do.” Gradually, he became known, and because he was on the ground, he could agree to meet over a quick coffee at short notice, whenever a contact had an opening in their diary.
“The reality is there are huge opportunities in the UK – and huge competition,” O’Connor says. “In the online sector, they make decisions quickly. It’s competitive and fast-moving.” That competitive, fast-paced environment proved fortunate, as new contacts who had invested in alternative platforms subsequently came back to try Scurri.
“It’s an industry where they are looking for innovation, and newness is seen as an advantage,” O’Connor says. “If you can prove your value proposition, if you can deliver the service, if your price is right and they can trust you, you will get deals. But, it’s the same as in any market: you need to be known.”
About 90 per cent of Scurri’s customers are now UK-based, and the company has its own UK sales director. But looking back, O’Connor doesn’t feel there was an easy alternative to being there himself to initially prise open the door and understand the industry well enough to draw up a spec list of the skill-set and rolodex of contacts needed to take the opportunity forward. “Otherwise, how would you know what to look for?” he asks. “You would be totally naïve when interviewing. You need to be there and know the market yourself to get a sense of how well people are known in the trade. If anything, I wish I had moved there sooner.”
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