Interview with Mark Hallam, CEO, Cloud Commerce Group
“It’s been quite a dramatic couple of years, as much of the retail sector has been locked down and people have worked from home. It’s been a time of massive growth for eCommerce. We’re a software and services business that helps retailers get online. From the moment a consumer clicks to purchase a product, to the point that product is signed for on the doorstep, a complex series of transactions take place that need to be automated, stock levels updated, the right courier chosen, customer contact details processed. They have to do this across multiple channels, or platforms, such as the biggest two – Amazon and eBay – but also on their own website.
That has given us incredible insights into consumer behaviour and also what businesses need to do in order to match those expectations. Since March 2020 80% of our retailer customers increased their sales by between 100-200% – but of that 20% of them couldn’t cope with the growth and disappeared, if we asked them why it was often because eBay or Amazon penalised them for poor performance metrics and also they had staffing issues with the transition to working from home and finding it hard to fulfill orders.
We are still seeing record order volumes, weekly rates are now at the levels of a Black Friday week every single week and that level has grown throughout 2020. One thing we are seeing though are problems with stock and stock forecasting. Many customers haven’t bought deep enough and manufacturers all over the world seem to be having supply chain issues. This may be a result of Covid-related staffing issues or probably an assumption that we would enter a global slowdown that as we know hasn’t materialised.
Typically, how do your customers trade online?
“It’s important to understand the difference between 3rd party platforms such as Amazon and eBay and then 1st party solutions which help a business to build its own eCommerce website and structure, such as Shopify, Magento, and WordPress’s platform WooCommerce, and then the part that Google Shopping has to play.
“Amazon and eBay have both got a mature market, they are trusted and have embedded themselves into everyday retail routines. Both have built a business on the back of 3rd party retailers but Amazon have started to forge direct contact with manufacturers and distributors. Around 60% of UK sales come from third party sellers. Google is often the place we go in order to start a buying journey, but then increasingly Amazon and eBay have put apps into people’s lives via phones, iPads or even Alexa – which reduces the reliance and the cost of Google. It’s all down to the consumers though – it’s what they want to do.
Do they want choice, convenience, or price?
“Personally I think it’s all three and therefore we will always have room for multiplatform purchases – that said, I would expect some form of anti-competitive legislation to be introduced that might actually have the opposite effect. We have seen how the EU legislated against Google to open up comparison site services which actually allowed Amazon to place their own adverts in Google Shopping. Not many retailers actually like Amazon but consumers definitely do and Amazon know this, which is why it’s always consumer first and marketplace seller a distant second.
Is eCommerce a lower cost model for retailers?
“I’m often asked about whether eCommerce is a way for retailers to cut the costs of doing business. I don’t think it’s cheaper selling online than on the high street. Your website and your product listings are your shop window. But, you need to get people to look at that shop as well. The good news is that wherever you are based you can go well beyond where you might have a shop, be that our home city of Lancaster, or wherever you are. We have customers selling British foods all over the world – £5 for a bottle of HP sauce, they sell 100+ per month!”
About us: Cloud Commerce Group is a privately owned and entrepreneurially led business, founded by Mark Hallam and Stuart Forrest. It has two software products – Cloud Commerce Pro and Channel Grabber – providing retailers and merchants with the tools to integrate and sell online. Cloud Seller Pro is a full service agency, offering campaign management, Google expertise, web design, account management and better product listings.