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Dive into the world of E-commerce with Robert Campbell- CEO of E-commerce business ShopNearBuy

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In this interview we take a look into the live of Robert Campbell, CEO of ShopNearBuy, an allround online store based in Ireland. He tells us more about the online shopping business and the issues companies run into nowadays. He explains more on the importance of small businesses and the effect that the pandemic has had on an E-commerce business such as ShopNearBuy.

Robert Campbell- CEO of ShopNearBuy

Hello Robert, can you give us a little info about your role as CEO in ShopNearBuy?

Building a new technology platform that fits with the needs of the marketplace and then connecting that platform with those who can benefit from using it. It’s not a quick and easy process. Having previously spent many years developing award winning business applications for worldwide use the challenge remains the same – to make available a new technology solution which is easy to embrace and which makes a sound business case to use. Clever tools are useless unless they can demonstrate some value- add from adopting them. Then there is the not-insignificant job of spreading the word to those who will gain from using it. 2 very different challenges – engineering and marketing – within a 3rd challenge of financial constraints.

Can you give us an overview of ShopNearBuy and what sets it apart from other e-commerce platforms in Ireland?

ShopNearBuy is an on-line marketplace where consumers can purchase products from a wide range of retailers on a 24 x 7 basis. It is comparable to a shopping centre in the cloud and not one speciality store. The focus of ShopNearBuy is to harness all the strength of supply of Irish producers and providers and allow consumers to purchase from local retailers as an alternative to importing products. There is an entire community of Irish providers across food, fashion, crafts, healthcare and many more who do not appear on the radar of many Irish consumers. These providers will gain by selling more of their products and providing value-add to the local community.

What inspired you to get started with ShopNearBuy, and what were some of the challenges you faced in the early stages?

There has been an exponential growth of on-line selling in recent years but that doesn’t mean that everyone has benefited. Those who invested in eCommerce have enjoyed great benefits but many small & medium sized companies may not have. Consumers are well versed in shopping on-line but….and there are a few “buts” …the buyers may not be aware of the local options and some of the local options may not be able to participate. ShopNearBuy wants to empower small & medium retailers and allow them to participate and also inform consumers that this new option now exists. One of the biggest challenges is how to configure a team that can deliver the above. One person cannot as it involves many various skills covering IT development and digital marketing. Once the correct team was in place the way forward looked very promising.

How will ShopNearBuy contribute to supporting local businesses in Ireland?

ShopNearBuy’s main – if not exclusive – purpose is to expose Irish consumers to locally available buying options. These options are – more often than not – very high quality local producers who are well positioned to providing their top quality locally produced products thereby avoiding the need to import. All the evidence suggests that the margins made by local producers through this direct selling is significantly greater that the margins earned through selling through many other channels.

With the increasing competition in the e-commerce space, what steps has ShopNearBuy taken to differentiate itself and stay ahead in the market?

Our focus is on the SME community many of whom are not (for various reasons) maximising their participation in eCommerce. These SME companies can now embrace eCommerce without any up-front costs and enjoy new business sales without any up-front or monthly fees. Our fee as on a “no foal, no fee “ basis and is proving very attractive to retailers. We are taking the view that the retailer pays for the benefit they get rather than the use of a technology tool. We feel that this is very significant. Secondly, ShopNearBuy is rolling out its service to all counties in Ireland and not just focusing in the larger city areas. So hopefully everyone (and the general economy) gains.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted ShopNearBuy’s operations and growth?

Covid has had a number of interesting affects on our business. Firstly, consumers are now far more conversant with ordering on-line and very familiar with receiving order deliveries to their door. Also, a significant number of new retailers today are the direct result of the Covid lock-down era when their normal activities were shut down and they looked at what other activities they could undertake. Separately, some reported supply chain issues have also highlighted the challenges of international order fulfilment so local retailers can harness their local advantages.

What are your plans for expanding ShopNearBuy’s reach and scaling the business in the future? Are there any specific target markets or sectors you’re planning to focus on?

ShopNearBuy’s initial launch is in the Laois /Midlands area – although consumers could be located anywhere. This initial launch will soon be followed up by a move to national coverage so consumers anywhere in Ireland can search for local providers – on a cross-sector basis – of the product they are looking for. This searching is done by setting a radius in km to locate suitable retailers and if need be extending that radius to find suitable providers in other towns & counties in Ireland. We anticipate a scaling of the business which allows a consumer in Donegal or Wexford to source locally produced products anywhere in Ireland – which they would not have been otherwise aware of. To this national umbrella of Irish providers , the growth of ShopNearBuy will be intricately linked.

Can you tell us about any upcoming features or initiatives that ShopNearBuy will be introducing to enhance the user experience and drive further growth?

We continue to make the process of embracing eCommerce as simple as process. This is a business driven initiative and not a technology deployment play. However, we continue to look at easier & faster ways of allowing the buying and fulfilment process to take place. ShopNearBuy is also committed to collaborating with delivery organisations to maximise the delivery experience in whatever form that may
take. We anticipate some facilitatory announcements in the near future in this area. And ,of course, as ShopNearBuy grows nationally and a greater number of both retailers and consumers are on board other order fulfilment options are anticipated to be made available – making it even easier to Shop in your area, however you define that area.

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business, particularly in the e-commerce industry?

Advice in this area would have 3 parts:
1) build the right team with mixed skills – it’s difficult to do it on your own. And even if you did manage it on your own would your customers not prefer to see a team rather than one person
2) take a long term view / enough time to make it happen. There are many obstacles and so make sure you don’t expect results too quickly.
3) be prepared to take lots of knocks and set-backs. Managing them will make you stronger & fitter. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

Have you become curius about ShopNearBuy? Visit the website here!

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Owen
Owen
Owen is an excited writer with over 10 years of experience in the newspaper industry. Born and raised in Ireland, Owen developed a passion for writing and journalism at a young age. He pursued this passion by studying journalism in college and quickly landed a job as a reporter at a local newspaper. Over the years, Owen worked his way up the ranks in the newspaper industry, eventually becoming one of the top editors in the company.

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