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Exclusive interview: Shopgate's CEO on entering Aussie market alongside Amazon

By Julia Gabel
Thu 1 Jun 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Shopgate, an SaaS platform for online retailers, will enter the Australian market. With Amazon also entering the market in late 2017, Shopgate aims to help local retailers compete with the mobile commerce giant.

Shopgate’s CEO Marc Biel discusses what this means for retailers, what Shopgate will bring to the market and the shifting mobile commerce landscape.

How has the Australian market and buyer shifted over the past years and what is it about the market today attracted Shopgate?

Mobile commerce has finally fully arrived. A few years back, mobile was something people saw coming in the future – but it’s here now. More than 50% of web traffic is now coming from mobile, but there’s a discrepancy between those traffic rates and the eCommerce revenue attributed to mobile devices.

A main contributing factor to this gap are the huge barriers to purchase that exist in mobile buying. Our platform eliminates so many of these common issues, so we knew this was an opportune moment to move into the market.

In addition to having reached the tipping point between mobile and desktop internet usage, we knew the entry of Amazon into the Australian market meant our solution would be more helpful than ever for mid-market retailers.

With Amazon’s rollout, there will be more pressure on retailers, who will need to focus heavily on retaining customers to avoid losing them to the retail giant. The most effective way to do this is to provide a shopping experience that competes with – or outperforms –Amazon.

With buyer expectations at an all-time high, and smartphone penetration reaching unprecedented levels, people expect to be able to use their most personal device as a way to easily buy the things they want.

They expect to find the same seamless, personal experiences they find elsewhere on their smartphone, as they experience with customized news reports, intelligent location services and more.

As smartphones continue to get smarter, every interaction with them will become more tailored, and eCommerce experiences must follow suit. Smart message segmentation will be more crucial than ever, as users become less and less tolerant to impersonal broadcast communications.

As you prepare to enter the Australian market, what are some of the challenges you have faced so far or are expecting to face?

Really, the market entry wasn’t the challenging part for us. We’re fully prepared for it from a technical standpoint, and our platform is ready to go.

In the future, of course, we’ll likely find challenges as we continue to integrate with some of the Australia-specific third-party tech partners that are used widely by Australian merchants. An important next step will be to identify the right partners and forge relationships in a new market.

The rise of mobile shopping platforms demonstrates many things about the rapidly evolving needs of users. From your perspective, what will this market look like in five years? What does this mean the more traditional online desktop transactions?

The big expected shift over the next five years has already begun – with the vast majority of transactions moving to mobile. However, desktop will surely never disappear, as it’s the device most people use all day at work, and a significant portion of purchasing is done during work hours. 

But five years from now, the way we shop will surely have changed. Our phones will be more heavily reliant on voice, and supported with AR, giving them the ability to know its user as a person much better, and will be able to better predict buying patterns. With this technology, shopping experiences will become more personalized, with smarter support for every buying decision.

Will any other aspects of the market beyond desktop transactions be disrupted by mobile shopping platforms?

I think there are three parts to this: first off, the online advertising market will see much more personalized messages become the norm. With mobile devices that know everything from when you get up to the specifics of your daily commute, to how much time you spend in a specific store, marketing strategies will certainly be shaped by this data.

Secondly, with the shift to mobile, brick and mortar businesses will change, as customers with apps installed have an important, strong tool that keep them connected to the brand and drives them back to the store.

With tools like push notifications, brands can communicate with much better targeting and reach customers, even when they’re not inside the store, leaving opportunities for infinite aisles and always-on shopping opportunities. 

Additionally, outside the general eCommerce market, mobile will start to have a great impact on the B2B retail market, which to a large extent is not even online at present. This is an industry that has a real need to modernize its tech right now. This is why we think mobile apps can and will disrupt this market.

What does access to your mobile commerce platform mean to retailers?

In short, it means they have the power to give their users the streamlined mobile shopping experiences they expect – the kind of experiences that will lead to long-term customer loyalty and lasting revenue in the fastest growing commerce channel.

On our platform, merchants benefit from rapid app launch (9x faster than average app development timelines), predictable pricing thanks to our subscription model, seamless partner integrations that are ready to go, plus continued updates and support from our dedicated development team. All this, plus full app design control for every merchant, with no coding required.

What advice do you have for Australian retailers (regarding their mobile strategies) who are set to compete against eCommerce giants such as Amazon?

Remember that as Amazon begins to saturate the market, acquiring every new customer will become more and more expensive. While acquiring new customers is always a key focus, now is the time to seriously review your retention strategy to avoid being priced out by Amazon.

Focus not only on acquiring customers, but on making every customer a repeat customer, and you’ll see the best possible value out of your marketing dollars. 

In Australia, what will give Shopgate’s mobile platform the competitive edge?

We have the competitive edge because we deliver what large both mid-market and enterprise merchants need – a powerful, fully functional mobile commerce platform that launches quickly, is highly customizable, and provides state-of-the-art technology at a truly affordable price.

While apps were once considered a luxury only available for very large enterprise customers who could afford an outside agency or in-house development team, more retailers can now benefit from the retention-building power of apps thanks to our technology.

For retailers considering a mobile commerce platform or reviewing their current platform, what are the most important questions they should be asking about their platform to ensure it’s the best solution for them?

It’s important for retailers to ask whether their current mobile solution is just an extension of their desktop site. For the most part, this is what retailers tend to rely on.

But with more than half of traffic coming from mobile, shouldn’t you be placing more time and investment on mobile? Should it be the other way around? A mobile-first strategy is the way forward, and powerful retailers have already recognized and adopted this perspective.

Additionally, how does your mobile platform help you retain business? Does your mobile shopping experience eliminate barriers to purchase, or make it harder to buy from you on mobile?

Finally, does your platform offer your VIP customers the experience they deserve to keep coming back?

If you haven’t created a dedicated mobile shopping experience that makes your customers want to shop with you on mobile, the answer is probably no.

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