Think about adding value for your customers, as opposed to discounting or competing purely on price. Today’s consumer is thinking about every aspect of the buying journey and will value experience and product quality over price.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andre Hordagoda.
Andre Hordagoda is the Co-Founder of Go Instore, a solution technology connecting digital customers with in-store product experts using an AI augmented reality, live video platform. Over two decades, he has gained years of experience within e-commerce and has had a major focus on helping retailers improve conversion rates, AOVs as well as optimizing customer experience using a myriad of technologies ranging from digital personalization, AI, CRM, web analytics and now live, immersive video.
Before launching Go Instore, Andre worked with large organizations including Experian and Smart Focus (formerly Emailvision), as well as undertaking leading positions, growing early stage businesses such as Peerius and SundaySky.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Having grown up with a father who sold kitchens for a living and a mother, who in time turned out to be a very successful entrepreneur in her own right, I guess sales, business and business leadership was always in my blood.
Back in the late nineties (and certainly in the UK) a career in sales was not really considered a ‘profession’. Despite this, I went to university specifically to build my sales skills, studying psychology so I could hone my skills on understanding people and the way they worked. I then spent close to 15 years purposely working in both small and large companies to get a robust sense of business and expose myself to all facets. Looking back, my whole career was leading me toward launching my own business. I’ve been told previously that I should enter to be featured on the UK equivalent of Shark Tank, (Dragons Den) — but I’ll tackle that when I can become a judge rather than a contender.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting and poignant thing to happen in my career, to be honest, was getting fired. I went to work for an Israeli tech startup about 12 years ago and worked there for a year. My role was to launch the UK operation of the business, but my manager didn’t want me to connect with anyone else within the business and instead channel everything through him — probably driven by his own insecurities. This clearly wasn’t conducive to creating a successful operation, and after a year I was eventually fired.
I was devastated on an emotional level for weeks, but in time I took the anger, frustration and negative energy and turned it into fire. Events like this can destroy a person, or they can feed the flames!
I also learned the importance of managing ‘upwards’ internally at this point, and to this day I encourage staff within my company to do the same, no matter what position they are in.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
Perhaps this isn’t a “funny” story, but more of an observation. When you start a business, you encounter many people claiming to be “experts” along the way who want to offer you (unsolicited) advice. I would tell any businessperson or entrepreneur to be wary of giving up equity to people who claim to offer insight and value too early on. Spend at least 3–6 months with potential NEDs — as they can often run out of juice!
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
What we do at Go Instore is digitize the physical store. We continue finding new tech solutions to offer value to both the consumer and the retailer. Our newest offering, which serves as a complement to our one-to-one video chat solution, is ShopStream. ShopStream is our livestream technology, which allows any volume of website visitors to tune into live sessions hosted in stores by store staff. Our service combines the convenience of livestreaming with the personalization of one-to-one service to follow the consumer journey from end to end. We pretty much deliver every stage from ‘window shopping’ through to full consultation and aftercare, all online, and as effectively as visiting the actual store.
Through our solutions, we’re also on the precipice of releasing incredible levels of data. By adding a digital lens to in store interactions, we capture, can harvest and make actionable insights like never before.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Some of these might sound “corny,” but they truly work for me and are a great way to keep yourself grounded. I try to get at least three sessions in the gym per week. I also write a list each day of what I want to accomplish, what I actually do accomplish and what I may not have accomplished. This self-assessment keeps me focused. It’s important to keep some kind of routine and take breaks for yourself to recharge.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My business partner, Aman, is that person. We actually went to school together and have known one another for many years. We went into business together and have been finding our footing together, but he’s always positive. We’re lucky that we never have the same “off” days and can lift each other up. We also made the decision when we started Go Instore that we would leave our egos at the door. Much like any relationship, you need to unravel any issues early on to prevent conflict so you can always do what’s best, especially in business.
Interestingly, Aman Khurana also featured in this publication recently. I didn’t read his interview ahead of writing this — nice to see he pretty much wrote the same thing!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Through Go Instore’s technology, we were able to bring thousands of people out of furlough and prevent unemployment. I don’t believe in luck when it comes to business, but really, we were at the right place at the right time; we have quadrupled despite the pandemic, which is great, but we’re also extremely proud to have helped retail workers during these difficult times, and to some extent we’ve helped keep the wheels of commerce in motion.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
The mindset around digital has changed and needs to continue to evolve and be embraced. Online channels can now be just as valuable as a customer entering the store, with technologies such as ours. We match in store conversion rates, so arguably hiring more staff to handle video consultations works and should contribute to the traditional store format and business mathematics.
Retailers in nearly all parts of the world — the U.S. UK, Europe, Asia — have turned to livestreaming and video chat services to give online shoppers that same experience and leverage their e-commerce capabilities in a more viable way. Video technology helps turn your store into the studio and your staff into stars, helping them use their natural sales abilities.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
Delivery is only one dimension. In retail, there are many important factors to consider — am I offering the right product for my customers, can they use that product, are they enjoying purchasing it? Retail is becoming about more than just the purchase. The future of the physical store or malls will need to become more kinetic — you must engage people and all their senses. Retailers who survive realize it’s not just about buying something, it’s about engaging customers into the brand.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
Another mindset shift needed is thinking you need to have every product in stock at all times. Retailers need to look at the lessons and efficiencies from digital and bring them to the physical store. Customers are coming in for an experience, which retailers need to deliver, and then have the infrastructure to ensure the products get in their hands, such as using fulfillment centers. How we previously measured physical store performance is now “old hack” — a transaction can happen digitally and still be credited to a store visit, whether that’s in person, or digitally via live video.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
If you try and fight Amazon, you’ll lose. Amazon won’t go anywhere, and shoppers will continue to buy there based on convenience. But shoppers aren’t always just buying the cheapest product — if so, we’d all be driving the cheapest possible cars and eating the cheapest available food. You have to offer that dimension of brand engagement to keep them coming back. In the UK, for instance, shoppers go to Marks & Spencers because of the service and experience. Brand engagement and loyalty is the key and is what makes customers become repeat buyers.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more?
This is a great question. My top five would be:
- Where possible, think about longer-term engagement and the lifecycle of your customer relationship. How do you keep the conversation going after the initial sale, so your customers continue visiting your shop/online shop, making purchases and telling their friends about their experience?
- Your staff are your most valuable assets. You need to ensure you are looking after them and keeping their best interests in mind.
- Always ask for feedback and reviews — from both your customers and your employees. If you’re doing a great job, shout about it so people know. If people are unhappy (internally and/or externally), then you need to remedy the issues so you can continue to improve.
- Think about adding value for your customers, as opposed to discounting or competing purely on price. Today’s consumer is thinking about every aspect of the buying journey and will value experience and product quality over price.
- Embrace the future. The world has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace. New habits are forming, and those that don’t get behind these changes are left behind the times.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊
This may sound strange coming from the founder of a rapidly growing business, but I would tell people “It’s only work, don’t take it too seriously.” It’s important to step back from the day-to-day stresses of work life and put everything in perspective. This is an exercise I encourage myself and all those around me to do regularly. We need to focus more on achieving that elusive work/life balance so we can be well-rounded, well rested and enjoy what life has to offer.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!