Spotlight: Intelligent Reach

Note from the editor

For this month’s issue of Spotlight, CJ and I travelled down to London to interview the lovely people at Intelligent Reach to talk about the company’s journey and how they see the landscape of retail developing in the coming years. It was very interesting to hear their point of view on the supposed ‘death of the high street’ and other topical issues in the industry such as fast fashion. We also appreciated being able to participate in their Friday beers and observe what a friendly working culture they have created. Enjoy.

Fact File: Intelligent Reach

Intelligent Reach is a cloud-based e-commerce software provider helping retailers and brands ensure product information for online shoppers is high quality, relevant, in the right format and performing well with all partners, in all countries.

They provide their customers with increased visibility in shopping listings and improve the relevance of clicks and help grow sales. They strive to make their customers successful and share their expertise as and when customers want it through the technology and services offer.

An interview with …

Steve Rivers: Founder & Chief Customer Officer
Robin Martin: Chief Executive Officer

Left to right: Steve & Robin

Millie: What would you say are the main problems you solve for retailers?

Robin: We help brands and retailers get their products found by relevant buyers. To break that down, there’s the discoverability element which involves making sure that your products are described in a way that matches up with the search terms your customers are using. Then you need to consider where are they looking, which search engines, fashion bloggers, comparison sites, and making the data available in those places. What we also provide is a level of experimentation. You might have 4 or 5 images of one product on your website, but you’ve only got the chance to show one of those on your Facebook ad, so you need to know which one is going to drive the best conversion. We provide you with the ability to experiment and test the image so you know for sure. Interestingly you will see that what works best on Google might not be best for a social environment, so you have to do this on a channel by channel basis. The ability to experiment and scientifically prove that is fantastic. Most retailers and brands do a huge amount of experimentation on their site, but we are the only ones doing it on that discovery journey to get to the website. You might have the best website in the world, but if no one can find it and consequently no one’s looking at it then it’s irrelevant.

Millie: What can you tell me about the beginnings of Intelligent Reach – why was it initially founded and how did you go about setting it up?

Steve: I had worked in a lot of digital roles; I used to be a group publisher, running a magazine called InternetWorld, which focussed on helping retailers and companies digitalise their business. I then joined a big US comparison site called Shopzilla, helping them launch in Europe. That was the start of my journey. It was a really good experience because straight away I got exposed to the importance of creating something called a “data feed”, which simplifies the process of adding products to a shopping site. I noticed there was a big knowledge gap in the industry in that respect and there were a number of challenges that retailers faced. Within about 3 weeks of working at ShopZilla I thought to myself there’s got to be a platform that solves these issues, that helps clients to produce the data that powers these channels, and that allows for greater visibility and control. I could see that product level data would drive everything in terms of digital commerce, so I wanted to start a business then and there, but I stayed for two years to gain more experience. When I left I started a very niche e-commerce business and I also launched Intelligent Reach. It was great having the exposure to running an e-commerce business, but Intelligent Reach just grew much faster, so I put all my energy into that. We didn’t take any funding until 2014, which is not so common these days. The management team made huge sacrifices to build the business, then we took funding in 2014 and everything changed.

Millie: What did the team structure look like at the beginning and what is that like now?  How have you attracted and nurtured the talent you have?

Steve: It has changed massively. It used to just be myself, Matt, Andy who now runs our Australian office, and we did everything ourselves at the beginning, we grew the team organically over the years, as we signed more clients. Our first platform was built by a third-party agency – worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life because they didn’t understand the product and they didn’t listen to us. From then on, we decided to have development in house, which made a big difference because we are in control of the core element of our service

Robin: From my perspective, one thing that has changed is that we have streamlined down our account management and sales team, and in turn increased the remit of the customer success managers who take of the lead on everything relating to customer care and performance. They enable the clients to get everything they can out of the platform and encourage them to engage with all of the tools, which means they get maximum value, and increases their likelihood of staying with us. There’s a lot of transience in the market, so it’s nice to know you’ve got some advocates. With the money we saved from streamlining, we have invested in the product where we can really add value. We have also opened up the Australian office, which has been hugely successful and is now roughly a third of our total revenue.

Steve: As our business changes our client requirements change – clients want more control and involvement in the process and they don’t want to wait to see results, which has had an impact on the way in which we structure the business. Winning new business and selling will always be an important part of our strategy, but more and more now we are focussing our efforts on ensuring the product wows customers by delivering all the features they need. It is essential that we have good developers and good data guys that are working on the AI initiatives, because that’s the thing that’s going to deliver real and lasting value.

Millie: You have a wide range of impressive clients including some huge retailers such as River Island, Burberry and Not On The High Street, as well as some smaller independent retailers, how does the work you do with these types of clients differ?

Steve: It depends what kind of company they are, even within a segment like our enterprise clients, for example with a Next vs an Missguided, they are very different in terms of requirements. With Next there’s a lot of agencies involved and they want us to handle a lot of things for them, it’s more of a managed service, whereas with Missguided they have lots of internal capability and they want to self-manage more. Generally, with enterprises their digital marketing stack is very fragmented because of their size, whereas with many of our smaller clients we can provide more of a holistic approach, which allows them to compete with bigger companies.

Millie: Are there any technological advancements or emerging trends in the industry you have identified that you think will play an important role in the future?

Robin: Retail has become a massively important consumer of paid marketing channels; recent reports are stating that 83% of all the traffic Google drives to a retailer’s website is coming from paid search, so I think that will continue to play a significant role. I think things like voice search and image comparison will also be important in the future. Imagine if you see a photograph of a young female actress wearing a leather jacket that you like, it would be great to be able to click on that image and be taken to a similar product. So, using image as a way of search will probably be the next thing. Voice search will be the same. But in that case, you probably need even more accurate data; reordering is very easy on Amazon, so you need to be careful.

Steve: I think in terms of other trends, we’ll soon be seeing a call for greater transparency with regards to where clothes come from, how they are made and what materials are used and so on. There was that Stacey Dooley programme and there are a lot of influencers saying that we should be striving for sustainable fashion. On a personal level, I’m interested to see how that plays out and for many retailers I think it would be advisable to pivot and innovate before this shift inevitably intensifies. It’ll be a long time until consumer behaviour changes enough to make a real impact, but it is beginning to happen.

Millie: With the current climate at the moment of the demise of the high street, how does your technology help to optimise offline stores and harmonise them with online platforms?

Steve: I think with regards to the changing landscape of the high street, it’s important to consider the evolving nature of sites like Amazon and eBay. They have a high number of active users and they’re always looking for ways to monetise that traffic. Amazon has been phenomenally successful at this, often now many product discovery journeys start there not on Google. There is a race amongst these companies to commercialise their properties and that’s achievable in a number of ways. You could make use of affiliates or ad units to drive people to your site, but more and more of these bigger sites want even tighter control over the buying process. One way Google has approached this is by introducing shopping actions; so you go to Google, you search for a product, and if it’s a multichannel product that is also available on the high street, within a couple of clicks you can reserve that product at your local store and go and collect it immediately. Google is then in a position to provide you with a better consumer experience than Amazon, which is quite something, because consumers are ever demanding and that will never change, you do something and they want more, it is insatiable to a degree. From the customer’s point of view, hanging around and waiting a day or two for your delivery is almost too long to wait in certain situations, but with this technology, you could potentially have your purchase within 30 minutes. For retailers, this justifies their significant expenditure on real estate, and gives their physical stores a reason to live. The way in which online and offline come together is a really big trend and some companies are capitalising on this really well. I judged an awards ceremony recently, and one of the entrants are now driving a massive amount of click and collect orders. Of those people coming to the stores something like 20% are buying something on top of their initial purchase. So, if you can actually make things work holistically then there is a great opportunity and we can save the high street.

Robin: It’s a great question actually, it’s part of what we’re trying to tackle at the moment. I think the demise of the high street is overstated. If you look at those stores that are being successful like Apple and Sweaty Betty for example, they are about creating an experience for the customer. As Steve says the physical store is still an asset if it used in the right way. High street stores need to equal or improve on that convenience of online ordering. We are doing something called local inventory ads; these ads pop up and tell you the product is in stock and available in a store nearby. To do that you need really strong data to get you discovered, but also you need local store inventory and details about that particular local store. We do that in partnership with Google and that really does drive footfall into high street stores, and once you’ve got customers in there they are in a position to browse, to upsell, to buy more and so on, but you’ve got to create a great experience.

Millie: We know that in the past you have found it challenging to explain what you do in a visual format – how do you feel DS have helped you overcome this hurdle with the graphic image they have designed for you?

Robin: Yes, we’ve struggled to produce something which is polished enough that we can be proud of. We wanted something much more visual that we can talk around. What we have now from DS is clear and concise, it summarises what we do really nicely. On top of that DS also created a brand guideline booklet for us, which shows us how a case study should be presented and things like that, which has really set a standard that we can adhere to across all of our marketing.

Steve: We’ve been working a lot with some advisors to really clarify and hone in on how we express what we do, because it’s quite complex, and once we nailed that you guys were very good at actually being able to express that in a more visual and creative way than anyone else before.

Robin: I would say that the turnaround was phenomenal actually, really, really quick, they went above and beyond on a couple of occasions which was great, and you followed the brief well. We chose Davies + Scothorn over other agencies because we could see they had a lot of creative flair and capability which the other agencies didn’t have.

Contact

If you want to further your marketing effort and are seeking to grow your business, Davies + Scothorn have an extensive skill set and a high level of marketing and design expertise that can help you to achieve your goals. Feel free to get in touch.

Email us: millie@daviesscothorn.com

Or give the office a call on 01283 532780.

Alternatively, come in for a chat and a coffee, our address is: The Studio at Hodges,

82 Horninglow St, Burton-on-Trent DE14 1PN

Take note that anyone who features in Spotlight will be provided with some great photography done by ACJ Media, which you can use in all of your marketing.

If you are interested in this prospect, email Alex at: Alex@acjmedia.com or call on 07894114681. Equally, if you fancy a face-to-face meeting to see Alex’s work, visit him at the above address.

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