Problems on the high street run deep and Mandeep Singh, co-founder of e-commerce platform Trouva, believes the high street shake-out has not yet even started in earnest.
Online still only accounts for under 15% of UK retail, imagine what the high street will be like when it gets 30-40%, he tells Proactive.
In his vision of the future, high value, good customer experience and strong footfall will be the keys to success on a very different looking high street.
That is why Trouva is focused on small, independent boutiques, says Singh.
Boutiques offer something different from chains all selling ‘the same stuff’.
Most retail chains are already things of the past, he adds, and indeed the future has passed many of them by.
“If your technology is what Amazon is doing already but with a worse customer experience, you are dead as a retailer,” he believes.
Amazon can fulfill the standard items people need such as electronics, books and so on, but the difference in independent shops is that these are products you want.
“Boutiques are about beautiful products you really care about.
“You don’t need them, you want them and they make you and your home different from everyone else.”
Trouva’s platform is open to just to bricks and mortar shops.
Typically, they are selling clothes, homewares, jewellery and so on and for the shop, all the legwork is handled for them.
“We organise all the things that are hard for the small boutique such as logistics, images, marketing and payments,” says Singh.
That includes stock management software, which Singh admits is a tough nut – ‘but we are cracking it’ - and a logistics programme that scours for the cheapest delivery option.
Singh believes even next day delivery is too slow.
Trouva’s record is 22 minutes and while Singh admits that was exceptional, it was an example of things you can do when not encumbered by legacy issues facing established chains.
While chains treat online and offline separately and fulfill online orders from a warehouse, “We know exactly where the products are in real time and with real-time stock information.”
In effect, it means Trouva can take any bricks and mortar business and turn it into a virtual warehouse.
Customers get online access to hundreds of the UK’s best independent shops, while the owners can get on picking great products,
Trouva earns commission on the products sold so it is aligned with the success of the shops on the platform, adds Singh.
Some of the businesses using platform are seeing sales into hundreds of thousands of pounds and Trouva itself is also growing at a pace.
Revenues have jumped by over 450% in each year since it was founded in 2015, while the company was named recently as the UK’s second fastest growing business.
Singh’s ambitions now are to expand further afield.
A funding round recently raised US$10mln and the company is looking to Europe for shops to add to the 450 already using the platform.
Singh sees no difference buying from a shop in say Copenhagen than in London.
The latest funding was backed by heavyweight venture capital firms, BGF, Index Ventures and Octopus Investments.
Unfortunately, it seems retail investors won’t get the chance to invest just yet.
The business is spending heavily on its technology and will stay private while it is going through this phase.